top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Iris Review

The Written Pronoun

The narrative I or the written pronoun as it appears in poetry has been a topic of interest for writers (and perhaps a thing of misunderstanding for nonwriters) for quite some time. The written pronoun encapsulates both fact and fantasy—realistic life experiences and fictional elaboration—to prove a point. Poetry is grounded in both personal experiences and imagined experiences in order to further the purpose and intent of creating the poem. When writing with the narrative I, the poet detaches themselves from the speaker and creates a shadow of themselves and their experience on the page. Nothing written should be taken as something that the author literally experienced but rather as an intellectual truth that points to the reality of the human condition. When reading the narrative I, one should not assume that the speaker and poet are one but rather shadows or reflections of each other for the purpose of exposing life’s truths. The person that appears on the page is only a figment of the writer with pieces sutured in place of the fragments that are missing or skewed. Details are changed. Personalities are shifted. Events occur differently. The narrator is not the author.

Ander Monson in his essay “This Being 2015” explains the idea of a poem well. “What is a poem, I wondered but a bit of the world, a moment taken out of context?”

In the essay “Against Sincerity” by Louise Gluck, the idea of the detachment of the author from the narrator is also considered. She explains, “To recapitulate: the source of art is experience, the end product truth, and the artist, surveying the actual, constantly intervenes and manages, lies and deletes, all in the service of truth. Blackmur talks of this: ‘The life we all live,’ he says, ‘is not alone enough of a subject for the serious artist; it must be a life with a leaning, life with a tendency to shape itself only in certain forms, to afford its most lucid revelations only in certain lights.’”

These ideas as a whole should also be extended to the written pronoun as a whole, not only the narrative I. The other characters in a poem may have been fictionalized in as much as the narrative voice has been fictionalized. All persons and events depicted in a poem should be considered with a grain of salt.

Recent Posts

See All

The Timberline Review is a journal run, according to a letter from the editor, completely by volunteers. The Willamette Writers is the company behind the publication, and on their tenth issue, decided

The Alaska Quarterly Review is a semi-annual literary magazine that describes themselves as having “powerful voices”. In their about page their mission statement is that they use “the power of literar

bottom of page