There is a fantastic article by Kathleen Rooney in the (ever brilliant) Harriet blog from the Poetry Foundation that is talking about whether poets should disclose when poems which appear to be auto-biographical are in fact fictional.
This is something that I’ve been wondering about for a while. I have written a lot of poems in a very auto-biographical voice which are either exaggerated, altered or imagined experiences. I think that poets need to be great listeners and that the poetry we write can be a curation of that acquired knowledge. The stories we tell should feel true even if the events mentioned didn’t happen.
Rooney discusses whether it is the reader or writer who is responsible for the confusion of fiction vs. non-fiction. I agree that if the writer is not deliberately misleading readers (claiming truth where there is fiction) then we should look at why we made the assumption and what it tells us rather than feeling tricked.
Perhaps we should consider that the aim of poems that employ fiction may be not only to engage us emotionally—in a manner that various readers will find either moving or fraudulent—but also to ask us to assess our expectations.
I want to be made to think and to question by poetry, I want to find new experiences whether they are true or not. Once they are inside my head they are part of my truth.
ps. While you’re on the Poetry Foundation site – check out Rooney’s poetry too!