NaPoWriMo 2016: day twenty-six

 

Day twenty-six!

This may or may not already have come up for you in your poeming, but today I want to talk about lying and fiction in lyrical poetry.

[We didn't really talk about lyrical poetry, yet: all that means is poems that are presented in the first person, with an "I" point of view. Most of the poems we have written during class are lyrical, de facto, since most of the poetry being written in the 21st century is lyrical. The one poem we did not write lyrically was our dramatic monologue. I'm not sure whether we'll be writing epic (narrative) poems or not, since we're running out of time, but that's the third traditional literary point of view category.]

Anyhow, in the twenty-first century, we have been taught (and we may believe) that poetry serves The Truth - that the truth of the poem is what is important, not the truth of 'what really happened.' So sometimes, even in intensely personal (lyrical) poems, there are moments (or entire plot points) that are completely untrue. (Some poets point these parts out, in interviews or notes, some don't.)

We as readers accept this but also get confused by it, since if we "buy" the poem, we believe its truth. Here's a great essay about that, by Kwame Davis (he's quickly becoming my favorite poet-blogger).

As poets, we feel this push-pull. Should I deliberately lie about something I know is false in order to allow the poem to go where it needs to go?

Every poet answers for themselves, every time they write. What works for one poem may not work for another.

My example: in University (as an assignment to write about a celebrity encounter), I wrote a lyric/ epic poem about my mom, dancing at a Doors' show the night after her first abortion. It's an amazing poem, but it is completely made up (aside from the general fact that she had an abortion around that age and she's a dancer and she likes The Doors). I didn't call my mom to fact check.

The first draft of the poem started at a concert I knew she had been at (The final Cow Palace show of the Beatles), but I scrapped that show because the Beatles were too tame to fit into the end of the poem (which needed to get wild, the way The Doors did).

And she loves the poem, as she can tell you herself. It gets into the heart of the issues in her life at that time, fictionalized.

So in this case, the "truth" in my poem is a deliberate lie.

We live in an era that holds a disturbing fascination with "what really happened." Docudramas, Wikipedia, scrap-booking, (journaling): all are part of our quest to remember and figure out the facts, as they occurred. I am not immune to that impulse; despite having seen the research on false memory creation and knowing that Truth is subjective, I want to get to the "reality" of life just as much as anyone else.

(Reality TV shows are another aspect of this quest, and OH, how we complain when there's a whiff of the made up in them!)

And so, to write a poem that deliberately lies might be hard. Think of it as fiction, if you have to.

Our example poem (since I don't have an electronic copy of my poem) today is The Lyric '"I" Drives to Pick up Her Children from School: A Poem in the Post-Confessional Mode by Olena Kalytiak Davis. To be honest, I don't know what is and isn't a lie in her poem, but the commentary on the poem here (which you you should read *after* reading the poem) has a lot to say about Truth, Lies and Poetry. Definitely worth reading.

(I'll try to find time later to type up my old poem. It's kinda long, though, and may take me awhile.)

Your mission for today, should you choose to accept it: write a poem with at least one major lie in it (and if you want, you can frame it in such a way that the reader knows it may or may not be a lie, like our example poem, that's up to you - or you can tell us the lie in your notes, or not).

Bonus points if the lie is exceeding juicy!

Or write the poem that needs to be written and tell the complete and utter truth, your choice!

Have fun and as always, happy poeming!