Making poetry go beyond oneself

When we think of immaturity, we think of a type of self-contained system.  We find a poem to be immature when it is too limited by the writer’s self or experience (and when the poem lacks a density, but this will be for another time).

There are many ways that poets try to make their poems relevant, reaching beyond themselves.  Political poetry.  Poetry exploring shared experiences.  Poetry of witness.  Poetry in which there is an “I” + “you/we” and maybe “other”/“I am an other.”  These are common modes of expansion beyond the self in American poetry, but a self is still there, that singular “I” relating.

Yes, poems without an “I” still have a speaker or speakers—still some type of selfness that necessitates speaking; or, the speaking necessitates that there is a selfness.  An “I speak therefore I am”—even if the “I” does not actually appear.

But I may be digressing.  What I mean to do here is discuss how that speaker/“I” can manage to not correspond to the poet (whatever is done, though, these will correlate to each other…).

One day in January 2012, tired of the linear causality between myself and the “I” in my poems (granted, an “I” does not entail the poet, but the poet often entails the “I”), I decided to bring in another text as source material.  Of all things, the material came from (but why not?  Of course, whatever I chose would have been laterally related to my “I,” as I have to encounter it; this is what I meant by “correlate” in the previous paragraph.  I happened to be looking at that site regularly).  I took selected FMLs, broke them into lines, and in between them I created aphorisms that responded to the developing situation—two voices interrupting and playing off each other.

This was writing that was not based on my experience.  This is different from the fiction of the classic persona poem as well, in that a persona poem is especially interested in generating a type of “self.”

What I am saying is that one’s writing/process can move out of causality, can move out of the “real I” directing the poem’s “I.”  To make a poem go beyond the self, seek what text materials are lateral to the self (again, one must encounter it to use it; thus, it must be adjacent to oneself).

Find textual source material, and then find a method to mediate between oneself and the text.

I watched Metropolis recently, with its aphorism, “The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart.”

The method is the heart of a work of this type.  May you choose that heart well.

(By the way, to be clear, I am not taking a “side” on which is the “better” poetry–I believe in employing both/all “sides”/types.)

In what ways have you sought a lateral “I” rather than a linear “I”?

Does my distinction between the “lateral I” and “linear I” make sense?

What are other ways to make poetry go beyond oneself?

What does poetry going beyond the self mean to you?