Writing Lesson and Homework Assignment:
Nancy Simpson: Instructor
Write a Persona Poem
The word persona comes from the greek language. Persona means mask.
A persona poem is a poem written in the voice of someone other than the poet. It is written in first person. The I speaker is not the poet. In practice, a poet takes on the identity of someone real or imagined, and talks as they would talk, sees what they see, hears what they hear. When the Persona Poem is spoken aloud, it is dramatic monologue.
Why would anyone want to write a poem presenting themselves as someone else? It is an exercise in walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, and when you do that, you learn something you did not know before, or you remember, with a thump in the chest, some truth you knew, but suppressed it so deeply you almost forgot it.
It is wise to choose to write about a critical moment in the person’s life. The classic example is Elizabeth Bishop’s “Caruso in England”. Kathryn Stripling Byer, our NC Poet Laureate, made much of her early fame in writing the Alma poems, in which she speaks as a woman who lived in the mountains long ago.
Is persona the same as personification? No, don’t get sidetracked. Personification is a poetic device in which the poet gives animals or objects characteristics of a person. Stay with the person I give you:
Assignment: Write a persona poem in the voice of Christopher Columbus in present time, returning to San Salvador, the place where he first landed in 1492.
Write a poem in the voice of a man or a woman who is hunting ginseng in a mountain forest in Appalachia, who finds something else instead.
Send me a copy, if you want my comments.
email@example.com. Cut and paste please.