Change of Address – a Poetry Group Meeting

With the help of our Creative Writing Fellow, the Poetry Group on March 11th looked at ‘points of view’ in poems, and who exactly is addressing whom. Vicki Jarrett gave us four poems, illustrating how the voice used may be ‘I’ or ‘We’ or ‘He/She’; and ‘You’ may also be addressed (by the poet), a viewpoint which would be rare indeed in prose.

While prose writers usually follow rather strict rules, in poetry the viewpoint can be more flexible – in fact, one of the poems shared by a group member had four different angles in one short poem, and it worked fine!

After Vicki’s introduction, we shared poems as usual, and at the end she gave out copies of her material, which included four exercises:

  • Pick a poem with a fixed perspective, perhaps one by a favourite poet, and examine how they’ve used point of view. Try rewriting the poem from a different point of view and see how it changes the feel of the piece.
  • Take a poem of your own and rewrite it with a different point of view. If you wrote it in first person, change it to second or third. How does this alter the balance and overall impact of the poem?
  • Check your perspective – if you’ve amassed a collection of poems, have a leaf through them and see which point of view you employ most regularly. There’s no wrong answer! It’s perfectly fine to tend strongly to a particular voice, but it’s still interesting and useful to be aware of an unconscious tendency you may have.
  • Try drafting a ‘we’ poem. First person plural. This may feel unnatural but can be fun to play with. Choose a group, of which you feel yourself to be a member – any size of group, from the whole human race to your particular demographic, to people attending a fitness class (or a poetry group!), and write a poem in the voice of the collective ‘we’ for the group. Focus in on what unites your chosen group, what circumstances and/or feelings do they share?

It was also good to welcome a new member.

Jock Stein

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