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Los Angeles Review of Books Presents Roundtable on Person and Persona in Poetry

By Harriet Staff


Los Angeles Review of Books presents a “Poets Roundtable on Person and Persona” featuring contributions from Alex Dimitrov, Lynn Melnick, and Metta Sáma. Here’s a little slice of the RT:

Lynn Melnick

I’M A LITTLE CONFUSED. Not long ago, coming off a string of out-of-town readings where I found myself in the company of mostly male poets, I noticed I was asked fewer questions about artistry, process, and craft than my male counterparts. Instead, I often heard more personal questions about my private life and history (not to mention my wardrobe). Poetry is always intimate, and it perhaps guides an intimacy between the writer and reader with which I am just not used to yet. I do not know if it’s because I write about sex and violence, and not, say, the sea, that these assumptions exist, but I’ve felt a little taken aback by the frequency and the disparity of these comments. […]

Alex Dimitrov

A few months ago, after a reading I gave in San Francisco, someone came up to me and recounted a very personal sexual experience which he said came to mind instantly after hearing one of my poems. Then he said, “Your poems are so personal and universal.” This confession was both an entering into a shared space (where presumably we’ve had similar sexual experiences) and a reminder to me that even when it appears we have the same stories, there is no universal — everything that happens to us happens in very specifically different ways. I don’t believe in the universal. But I do believe in the personal. […]

Metta Sama

Here I am in the midst of moving. Again. The new banker, whose official title is Relationship Banker, asked me if I had other bank accounts in any other state. I listed a slew of banks in a number of states and, when she gave me a look that may have said: “Ummm, you sound like you’re running from the law” or could have said: “you need to close your accounts!” or “oh dear” or any number of things; I quickly added: “I’m a poet and professor. My profession takes me to a number of different places.” She didn’t blink when I told her my profession is “poet,” nor did she ask me what kind of poems I write or what I write about. Instead, she began to tell me about all of the cultural events that will take place in this city for the next two weeks. This also happened to me in the place I lived before her; people asked me what I did, I told them I’m a poet and professor, and they talked to me about cultural events around the area. This tells me that poetry, in the public eye, has come to some new place, a new understanding, a new acceptance. Poetry has, it seems, announced: “we’re here; we’re stanzas; get used to us.” […]

Read each poet’s contribution in greater detail at LARB.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by Harriet Staff.