Fiction or Lies

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.

Based on a True Story. Or Not. by Kathleen Rooney for the Harriet Blog.

ps. While you’re on the Poetry Foundation site – check out Rooney’s poetry too!


6 thoughts on “Fiction or Lies

  1. chrisnelson61 says:

    A fascinating article – thanks for drawing it to my attention. I couldn’t agree more with your concluding paragraph: be it poetry, stories or lyrics, being made to think and work stimulates growth. Thanks.

  2. J. Jane MacKinna says:

    I have to go back to the phrase “poetic license” for it is the cornerstone of creative writing. How is it anyone’s business whether my muse intends my words to be of my life or a completely fictional snippet. If I blatantly pass it off as the truth that is one thing, but otherwise it is my right as a writer to use poetic license to it’s fullest.

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