Part 2 of the poetry workshop I’ve been taking was tonight (“Lie, Cheat, & Steal: How to Write a Good Poem”). You may remember that last week we cheated. This week we lied. We wrote persona poems and pretended we were someone else.

This comes very easily to me. I know there are some haiku poets who feel that they must always speak in their own voice from a place of authentic experience or whatever but I personally have always felt that making things up, or at the very least embellishing, is far more interesting artistically. Also, who are we really? We’re all our own inventions.

We had some great discussions about the poems we read. It’s been interesting. It’s been fun. I need to talk to poets besides haiku poets more often. Not that you’re not all fantastic. I didn’t mean that! But you know that inbreeding is unhealthy for any community.

I’ve been hearing discussion about this a lot lately — a growing dissatisfaction with the separation of the haiku community from the rest of the poetry world. There are more and more journals whose boundaries are fluidly defined, that publish “short poetry” and really don’t care what other categories it might fall into. There are more and more haiku poets submitting their poetry to mainstream poetry journals without bothering to label it. I think that thinking of ourselves as poets first and haiku poets second is very likely to improve our poetry, however we choose to write it. Haiku has particular limits which are fine to observe, which can actually be empowering, as long as you keep in mind the fact, which I think a lot of haiku poets forget, that you are writing poetry. Poetry is consciousness-altering. Is what we’re writing consciousness-altering, or does it just follow the rules?

Most days I despair of ever writing anything truly consciousness-altering. But I try. I want to try. I try to want.

Okay, so I wrote the following poem in ten minutes in a room full of people and fluorescent lights. Don’t get all “nothing consciousness-altering about that, you fraud” on me. We all have to start somewhere.

We all got a picture of a person (or people) and had to imagine ourselves into them, write in their voice. This was my picture.


And this is my poem.
The Woman Whose Legs Are Entirely Hidden From View Speaks to Her Daughter

Long before you were born
there was that hole
in the ice

where the spring was.
The warmer water
bubbling to the surface.

He took my hand,
whirled me away,
warned me.

Let go, I said, I need
to lace my skates

Tighter. Tighter.

He grew bored,
started looking
at other girls.

I skated to the edge.
As close
as I could get.

Nothing there
but water
and my face.

The wavering of the water
made two faces.

Split in two.

I’d always known it.

I lifted my skirts
and skated backwards.

5 thoughts on “Lying

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