Is “I” in Poetry the Loneliest Letter?

It’s tall & slender. It stands alone. It’s the ever loved, ever hated, ever tested pronoun.

I love I; it’s personal.  I’ve heard some writers and readers make the personal pronoun  out to be some sort of gimmick.  The use of it being a gimmick implies that using I is a cheap trick.  I’ve never once read someone’s poetry who used I and thought it to be cheap or easy.

All editors, and many readers, are searching for originality in the work that they read.  Thus, I’ve heard of a few editors  and fellow writers out there who denounce pronoun heavy pieces.  One of the main concerns I’ve collected over the years from these folks is concerning the perception of the ego that is put into an I-centered poem.  I see it as a way to present one’s self in a self aware state, a method of letting readers know that the writer is fully involved in whatever the piece is about.

I’m extremely confident in the first-person poem as a writer; it’s something I truly believe in.  If you read some of T.S. Eliot’s finest work, the first-person narration is divine as he describes the chaos happening around him.  This is probably  why I love modernist work so much.

Charles Olsen was a writer who used first person narration as well.  His vision of the I in poetry was, more or less, to listen to our inner selves. Proprioceptive writing is something that Olsen practiced and felt weakened the whole “I in poetry is egocentric” argument; he felt it washed the ego away.

Maybe it’s because I sort of adore the idea of confessionalism underneath it all and maybe it’s because pronoun heavy poetry often smells of isolationism. However, the intimacy felt and observed by the I in poetry is surely exciting to many readers and a quick connection can often be made to the writer which is always a thumbs up.

Do you I or do you dare not to I?

Other Important Items:

  • So Ryan Bradley has this story up at HOUSEFIRE  which is, honestly, the most raw thing I’ve read..possibly ever.
  • Marcus has a very interesting blog post in regards to an earlier blog I did about “Would you still Write if no one read your work?”  You can find it here:  In the blog he asks who your ideal reader is.  What an interesting question.  My ideal reader is probably a nerdy 20-something that watches Sex and the City re-runs and over-thinks every decision she or he has made since they were 12.
  • This is the point where I tell all of you that listen to radio and like new music to listen to CBC Radio 3.  I can’t get enough of it.
  • Submit your prose and poetry for our October Issue!

One thought on “Is “I” in Poetry the Loneliest Letter?

  1. I think this is a piece of great perspective. That something is used, in this case, the pronoun “I”, should not be the problem, but as with anything worthy of criticism, it is how these tools are used which is important

    I am a massive fan of the “I” in poetry and wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of your piece

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