sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Posts tagged ‘Persona Poems’

Sand in the Desert: Putting Together a Poetry Collection

I am a way-back science fiction fan, but until November,  2010, I had never

written a science fiction story. The

The cover for my forthcoming poetry collection

truth is I had a phobia about it, mainly about the world-building, which in the abstract intimidated me.

Around September or October of 2010 I decided I would simply go for it and write a science fiction novel for NaNo.  I started with the world-building: the planet, the aliens, the Terran Federation, the aliens’ society, values, arts, politics (or lack thereof). I’d been mulling over several things for years: a society based on personal responsibility, and one where the “normal” relationships contained multiple partners and included same-sex relationships.  I continued happily outlining the society and the people. I noted down about a page about the plot, including the main character, his father, and a couple of others.  I decided to write a YA/MG sci fi novel.

For various reasons which I will not fully divulge, in case any of y’all decide to read the book, I needed my aliens to be distinctive but not outlandish. I needed them to have skin color that could be found here on earth, yet still be distinctive, so for this and a number of other reasons, one of them being that I was damned sick of the good guys always being white, I made my aliens, my main character, and his father Black.

I also wanted to participate in Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides November Chapbook challenge, so I conceived of a poet to tie the two together. One of my alien characters is a scholar, and my main character ends up studying the poems of my imaginary poet. Raketh Namar, the author of the poems, exists in the universe of the novel some five thousand years before the action of the book on planet Aleyne. Raketh Namar, the poet, was the author of one of the most sacred texts of my aliens, the Aleynis. I don’t usually write prayers or write about spiritual subjects, yet I found myself writing them without difficulty. Raketh Frey, the main character in the novel, studies these poems during the course of the action. Eight of the poems, noted in the acknowledgments, appear in the book.

In the universe of the novel, this collection of poems was translated into English Common Speech by two of the other characters in the novel, Ardaval Namar and Gavin Frey, the father of my main character, Raketh Frey. Aleynis do not translate their sacred texts, and this translation is therefore unusual.

 Having written the poems, I wanted to put together the collection and publish it, but having dilly-dallied for some time, I decided to self-publish. At the present time, I have a cover, designed by Karen Cioffi, and Michele Graf has edited the collection, including some valuable suggestions about the order of the poems.

All I have left to do is to hop over to CreateSpace and  put the whole thing into their system, and after that I have to decide on a price.

Here is one of the poems, one that does not appear in the book:

Ode to My Father

When I was very small child
he was as tall
as the stars.

When I was boy-high
he had shrunk
to the height of a large tree

When I became a man,
he shrank to the size
of a fist.

When I became a father,
he rose again.
His head touched the sky.

Now he is gone.
I take my small son
and point heavenward.

“There is your grandfather”

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Persona Poems

English: Gwendolyn Brooks, Miami Book Fair Int...

Gwendolyn Brooks

Persona Poems

Persona poems are poems that are written in a voice other than that of the author, where the author pretends to be someone else. The first one I wrote was in response to a poetry writing exercise. The next one that I recall writing ended up in “Lifelines.” Since then, I’ve created two imaginary poets as part of the science fiction novels I’m writing, and written at least 30 poems by each of them.

Writing a persona poems involves getting inside the head of the narrator (or in my case, the supposed author of the poems). It’s kind of like acting a part in a play, except that the writer is creating their own dialogue.

One thing that surprised me in creating the two poets and writing in their voices was the ease with which I slipped inside their heads. The first poet I created, Raketh Namar, namesake of the main character in my novel Relocated, which will be available from MuseItUp publishing this coming July, was supposed to live and write 5,000 years before the action in the novel, and was the author of one of the most sacred texts of my aliens, the Aleynis. I don’t usually write prayers or write about spiritual subjects, yet I found myself writing them without difficulty.  This past November I created another poet, Constance Trusdatter, a very political poet who lives and writes about 100 years before the action of my current work in progress, another science fiction novel with some of the same characters as the first. I don’t usually write much about politics, yet a good number of Constance’s poems are strongly worded poems about this very subject.

Here is a persona poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, one of my favorite poets.The young girl’s voice, her longing, and her desire to be  bad come through so clearly.

Notice the pattern of two unrhymed lines followed by two lines with end rhymes, and how in the final stanza both pairs of lines rhyme.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172082

a song in the front yard

By Gwendolyn Brooks
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

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