Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Reader Asks: Are Your Poems Personal?

A Reader Asks: Are Your Poems Personal?
by Tim Kavi

My answer:

I am not sure how to answer this question. Poetry is both personal and impersonal, I hope it is always "personal" to my readers. You asked me though: "If I meant to do this?", meaning perhaps something that you saw in my poem. In terms of a response, I both meant what I wrote, and as it unfolded didn't knowingly intend what I wrote, as there is both a conscious craft and an unconscious one...for, as in any art, one thought, one line, flows to another, just as one brush stroke leads to another, some of them are not seen until they are crafted together in the moment. That is perhaps the way it is when there is a flowing poem that seems to generate itself.

You know, readers often read into poems or writings their own meanings...this is what I have said earlier in this blog--that the reader's response is most important and not what the poet thought she intended. Still, in some media, in order to tell the story like in film or novelizations, you want there to be enough of an identification of what is meant so that a common meaning can be seen by the audience. In that sense, the best artistic expression is meant for the public realm and not a private one.

To me it is most important that a poet or other artist have their work appeal to the widest audience possible so that their work can be enjoyed and meaningful. However, sometimes the flow of a work lends itself to an expression that seems steeped in specificity and symbolism that is obscure. In that case, there is a sense that the work is done and speaks for itself, even if not clearly understood.

Do poets or writers ever have symbolism or write about things that are moving them personally? There is no doubt of that in terms of a lot of conscious symbolism that I place in my poems --but for what purpose? Am I trying to make a personal message to a private audience or to make some broader philosophical point? I hope the latter. I hope whatever it is, that my writings are based out of the tragedies of existence that although partly fueled by personal events -- allows for cathartic release (as Aristotle taught) or to inspire art in general. I also think I often speak in a voice that attempts to address many levels.

I am led to ask in return:
Is all writing necessarily fictional? Can it ever be entirely fictional? Can it be too personal?

In some of my poetry, there are also intentional plays on dialectics and double entendres. You can get more hints about meanings of these symbols in other blog entries here in my Writer's blog that discusses my work.

Are written works always fictions? I cannot even as a philosopher answer that with any purity.
Obviously some writing attempts to point to established fact, and any writing may be influenced by the personal. Writing may also describe the personal in a way that enhances identification with readers, but doesn't mean the author is experiencing that event or has ever personally experienced it. For example, I can describe a sky diver and if I study about it it is more real, but if I am writing it as a sky diver then we have a first hand account o f the event. That's pretty personal.

There is little doubt that poetry is sometimes a capturing of emotional expression...that is based partly on a projection and description of personal events.

If my poems are personal it is because of my emphasis on the dialogical encounter and mystical union of a transcendent other...with the expression of a nativistic speaker.

This poem that you asked about is no doubt about a poet or artist who is experiencing a come uppance through hubris...perhaps it is about me, especially if I use language owning it as personal, such as 'my wings' or 'this Icarus' etc. There is little doubt that this kind of language infers subjectivity. It is hoped then, that if one moves into subjective descriptions one is describing an event as lived out so that others can get a sense what it is like to experience what one is describing. There is sometimes a great lesson if we think too much like Icarus! --Tim Kavi

"Death of Icarus"

by Tim Kavi


has burned my

poet wings

and this


will crash into the sea

where his flaming


of passion

are put out as sure

as the eyes of


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