The True Poet

Recently, Mark Coburn (WIREMAN) offered the following observation about writers and their personal approach to writing:

“An interesting discussion might center around everyone’s comments about being yourself in your poetry. Being honest in your writing and letting the essence of your being be revealed, as opposed to writing as a different personality all together.

I’m not mentioning any names but I keep noticing that some of my fellow writers feel a need to become a different persona. I tried once several years back and found it was impossible to be anybody but the wired man I am.

I am really interested in seeing where my fellow LitKickers stand on this subject.”

In your own writing do you attempt to be as honest as you can be or do you try different voices and personalities to say what you want to say? Going further, do you often see writing as a means to confront and explore your own personal demons or pleasures — or do you find writing to be a means of escape?

44 Responses

  1. HonestyI always try to be

    I always try to be honest when I write. Though my imagination is quite active, it takes more energy to create an alternate self. So why bother to try?

    But more importantly (for me), I write as a way to work through ideas, concerns, etc. If I’m not honest, I won’t see growth. And what I write may not do anyone else any good, should they chance to read it.

  2. I…write what I feel on the

    write what I feel on the inside, as a release or as a way to let something out, bottled up individual that I am. That’s what I know best. So, I write my life, sometimes edited, but still only my life. I am totally honest about my life though, I don’t really feel shame for my actions. They make up who I am.

    I don’t think I could write as a different persona without changing a lot of who I am. Besides I know I have a super active imagination, but I doubt I could express it in words. I usually save that for the brush and paper.

  3. hmmmAs a writer I try to be

    As a writer I try to be honest. in my writing, it is difficult to not be honest. When I write a poem or a story, I feel as if i’m writing in a daily journal…my true self comes to life. In my daily life I allow myself to (sometimes…) dishonest, however my writing is more personal than my interactions in the “real” world. Poetry, especially, I feel I MUST be honest…’tis the honesty that brings closure, which is why I write poems. With fiction, I try to mesh, like a zipper, imagination and reality. I dunno, I suppose it works for me.

  4. Is it me?When I write fiction
    Is it me?

    When I write fiction I take different viewpoints that are not necessarily my own, but otherwise, I like to think I’ve found a voice in my writing. I’m not conscious of trying to be someone else.

    Oh, but, now that I think of it, I do tend to write like whoever I’ve been reading. After reading DeQuincey or Thoreau, I get a little verbose and expansive. And on the way home, in the car with my friends, from the first two Star Wars movies, I couldn’t stop doing the Chewbacca howl. But those are on purpose.

    So, who is? Not naming names? Is it me, is it me?

  5. Honesty, honestly?I used to
    Honesty, honestly?

    I used to write a whole lot, mostly either poetry or ranting essays voicing my rancor about some gear in the big machine. I don’t really know what happened, but at some point I quit writing, quit drawing, and to a certain extent quit expressing my “true” self all together.

    Recently (with a great deal of thanks to this website) I’ve started exercising my imagination and my pen once again and I realize that there was definitely something missing in those years when I was idle.

    Getting to the point, now that I’ve started laying lines down on paper again, I realize that I write for a whole number of reasons. Not only that, but I believe that the degree of “honesty” in my writing depends very much on why I’m writing.
    Sometimes I write to vent or just to play around, these times are probably the most “real” me. By that I mean I’m just writing the words exactly how I’d say them. Sometimes though, if I’m trying to express an idea that I have in my head, but haven’t necessarily formulated into words… well, those writings often come out sounding a little forced. If I’m reading something and I write down some notes or personal thoughts, when I reread them I find that I’ve written in an attempt to imitate the style of the author I was reading.

    I’m sure that there are plenty of reasons that people try to put on a persona when they write. Maybe it’s as simple as they haven’t found their own voice yet and are subconsciously mimicking a style that they like (kind of like how some people who love to sing think that they are Janis Joplin… ouch).

    Anyways, I think this is getting pretty long, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t edit it, hope that was a good answer.

    What was the question again?

  6. ….I wish I could give
    ….I wish I could give brother Bill his great thrill, set him in chains at the top of the hill, oops
    there I go sounding like that Zimmerman guy again……wired

  7. Being Yourself in Your
    Being Yourself in Your Poetry

    Writing, if it’s honest, dislocates a lot of mine and I.

  8. brilliantly put,
    brilliantly put, arcadia

    writing from the heart opens up that endless infinity zone


  9. Names and FacesI am
    Names and Faces

    I am fascinated by names and faces, personas, “masks”. I throw all of them into the mix when I write. In one sense, the excitement of literature is the suspense of the unfolding of layers between personas and realities.

    I’ve quoted this Vonnegut line a lot, but what the hell, I’ll repeat myself. Kurt Vonnegut said “you are what you pretend to be”. I think this is the same thing Jean-Paul Sartre means when he says that you are free at anytime to become whoever you want to be. When we create characters, we are experimenting with selves we may soon become, or may once have been.

    I think a great example of this is the book “The World According to Garp” by John Irving, which lays out in detail the interchange between a writer’s real life and the characters he creates, as if to plug the gaps in his life.

    Or Joyce’s “Ulysses”, with its multiple voices adding up to a single stream of thought.

    Or the entire careers of Bob Dylan and David Bowie, as they reinvented themselves approximately every two years. I think this is a great way to stay creative. It certainly keeps people guessing.

  10. The PointThe point is the
    The Point

    The point is the work. Keep what works. Discard what doesn’t.

    DISCLAIMER: This correspondent is no poet.

  11. The Journey of WritingWriting
    The Journey of Writing

    Writing is honest if the trip of writing leads me beyond what I perceive I am — when I let myself in to the vast space the journey creates.

  12. “Writing, if it’s honest,
    “Writing, if it’s honest, dislocates a lot of mine and I.”

    yes! absolutely.

  13. I agree, that’s the main
    I agree, that’s the main thing. Whatever works. Like, sometimes I try to sound like a good writer.

  14. Because, in a way, we don’t
    Because, in a way, we don’t know who we are, and we are forever learning.

  15. I’m glad you decided to start
    I’m glad you decided to start writing again. Looking forward to more.

  16. I like the way you put it,
    I like the way you put it, “With fiction, I try to mesh, like a zipper, imagination and reality.”

  17. I think that when we write
    I think that when we write honestly it always does someone, somewhere, some good. Others share our questions and meditations. Not everyone, but someone will.

  18. YesI think it’s always me —

    I think it’s always me — can’t be anything else, my neurons, my melange of synapses, memories stored, glances, webs of other minds, perceived, echoed, misunderstood, reflected, degraded, relaxed, molten in/to dreams — and in them the others, in them. Yes, as in the streams that make up Ulysses, or the Beat rages, their optics of authenticity, be sincere
    (Kerouac), be a lighthouse transmitting what you see in/from life, of course: also recognitions of other shores, labelled as that, so that the coordinate is known, the scale, to point out the wway, Ranger, to be good company, yes, to hear the voices inside, radiate what they made out of yourself, to pretend to be another person would be a shadowy challenge, an innoble task, blasphemy to life, 2nd-hand, yes: it’s me myself, lighting my fire, scratching the surface, psychological projection of others, yes, in my veins, how they might feel, I attempt to do the retro- but own perception, listening to the experiment when I expose myself to love, to doubt, to views of resignation, in this game, crying for release, for catharsis: writing in rage, in fury, in love’s imagination, I even shall be, was punished for the truth, the honesty of the feeling, sensoric scan, the overflowing mind, receptoric interaction, yes, I was, I set out to try life, yes. I was true, You knew, once again. And still evolving, the whisper of me. When writing, scanning what’s inside. Yes. To tell. Listen to the formulation of … Myself and … Yes. Yes.

  19. My friend Craig Spirko,
    My friend Craig Spirko, musician, performer, & producer, says that reinventing yourself is one of the basic tenets of rock & roll.

  20. Well…I sometimes write

    I sometimes write bare-bones honest, and I sometimes write from the perspective of someone else (even a female ‘someone else’), looking at myself.

    And then, when I write songs (which I do far more often than poetry), I write the first thing that comes into my mind – it’s almost like someone else is talking through me. I don’t even think about what I’m saying; I’ll inevitably get to the end of a song, listen back to it and have a shocked reaction – “oh, that’s disturbing” or “oh, that’s lovely”…anyhow – not sure if that’s even on topic.

    I guess my point is that I don’t like to think about limiting myself when it comes to writing. Why bother? So many other people are more than willing to do it for you!

  21. The path…Learn a path
    The path…

    Learn a path before we make our own.

    I think we’re initially led to writing from our readings. From our readings we see how we’d like to be heard (read) and quite naturally use the path of those that we enjoy reading,

    But to mature as a writer, we must eventually come face to face with our true selves… our own style, our methodolgy of writing… that is our growth as writers – finding our own voice no matter where that leads us… just like our favorite writers did.

  22. In the words of the immortal
    In the words of the immortal Queen of Everything Fun: Madonna, who has been questioned at length about her ability to reinvent herself, she says… “It’s not about reinventing who you are, it’s about revealing who you are.”

    I don’t think it’s something that can be done all in one shot. It’s said in the series of voices that you go thru.

  23. Letter and EnvelopeHonesty,
    Letter and Envelope

    Honesty, we might say, is the degree of accuracy with which truth is conveyed. But it is not enough for a writer to be honest. A writer must also be effective.

    Because certain personas have greater capacity for imparting authenticity, they can be more effective vehicles for conveying truth.

  24. the true self is one vast
    the true self is one vast imagination I feel. Like my biggest inspiration Henry Miller always pointed out, “it’s so simple write about yourself.”

  25. Amen brother….that is so
    Amen brother….that is so true Cecil, and not only in our writings but in our visual art statements. For me an Alexander Calder or Henry Miller was an impetus for my solo explorations. It totally amazes me to see an artistic talent develop to the point where you look at or read their work and immediately know the author.

  26. ….exactly Marc, that’s why
    ….exactly Marc, that’s why you have to go out there, into the wild side world and live…….wired

  27. ….the thing is to keep
    ….the thing is to keep learning and living and learning and living and by any means taking the talents you develop to the limit. Experience is the best teacher and once you start laying the real you, which is definitely more heartfelt and gut wrenching, on the line that is when an audience will take note.

  28. … have to take the
    … have to take the best of what you know and experience and float it out there on the ocean, that’s a fact.

  29. ….you know what Jim, if
    ….you know what Jim, if it’s in you and comes out, like a shot from the dark, that’s all that matters…………wireed

  30. ….I could’nt agree with you
    ….I could’nt agree with you more and after 30 years being sincere and wired is what does the trick….
    for me that is……..

  31. ….keep on doing the mesh
    ….keep on doing the mesh and the fly will be tight for sure, nice points made here…….wired

  32. ….we are the “ALL”…the
    ….we are the “ALL”…the humanity, and totally infinite….

  33. My Inspiration…I thank the
    My Inspiration

    …I thank the stars for my early introduction to Henry Miller’s writings. He saved me a lot of time, it’s all there, in his story told and retold, the magnificent lessons of a writer. I feel it’s all a matter of, what kind of writing you wanna be about, and for me it’s the laying it on the line soul searching kind…….. wired

  34. Andy Warhol??I enjoy acting
    Andy Warhol??

    I enjoy acting in different roles with people I don’t know. I find it rather amusing, even more so when I convince them it’s true. For the most part, my writing is no different. I would find writing about myself and my experiences extremely dull and boring.

    Naturally, whatever I write is somewhat based in and on my experiences and myself, or at least influenced by it, but that’s not my goal. I live with myself everyday, we all need to escape once in a while, if not just to break up the monotonous nature of it all.

    I can only take so much of myself.

  35. Without LimitationsCan anyone
    Without Limitations

    Can anyone say truly who they are?

    I used to think I could, but that was when I limited who I was, based on my past. But if I let go of my past, then in a way I am no one and free to be anything.

    ‘Labels are for cans’ is one of my favorite sayings.

    When we open our cans, heck, when we blow away even the bottom and sides, we are beyond any borders or definitions.

    I guess I don’t really understand what you mean when you say ‘some people write as someone else.’
    The writings that are emerging from me are so eclectic, and I’m enjoying how surprising that is. I like not limiting myself, it’s a freedom I sense I’ve longed for for a long time.

  36. Out of Many–OneI have
    Out of Many–One

    I have written under three main personas on the internet. My number one persona is Steve Plonk. However, I also use the “handles” of: Rev. Anthony “Antman” Daufuskie Bea or “Rev. A. D. Bea”, Reliable “Old Reliable” Thibodaux and occasionally Reliable’s son, “Junior” Thibodaux.

    These personas allow me to speak with “voices” I normally do not speak with and allow me to take on the mantle of other roles or personalities. I use these personas to post diverse political and creative expression. I can write in various styles.

    Moreover, I have used the pen name of Steve Plonk, since I began writing, and even copyrighted a two-part novel with a pen name(s) similarly spelled: Steven A. Plonk. Also see: Stephen A. Plonk, along with Steven Alfonzo Plonk. I began using my pen name again in earnest in 1999.

    Finally, I occasionally perform music under the name “Triple Nickel” here locally in Chattanooga, TN, at various “open mike” venues and for tips.

  37. NeitherI don’t find writing

    I don’t find writing as an exorcism or an escape. I find writing a good way to discuss further things that need to be talked about. In some ways, I find writing an easier way to elaborately discuss things that would not be easy to say in words. For some reason people are more often willing to read a ten page essay from someone than listen to someone say ten-pages worth of speech.

    I would find taking on a persona through writing a bit laughable. But I’m not always talking about myself when I am writing fiction or of someone else’s story. I’ve written stories about things that did not happen to me, like taking the place of someone who was a recovering drug addict-it’s written in the first-person in the story, yet it’s not about me. I could be writing from the viewpoint of a 50’s style monster-again, not me.
    Sometimes I wonder if what some other people write is ever about them, or indeed is what I’ve read for years just a character they created to help them express things. In the words of some unknown character in the wind, though, “it’s all good”.

    I always thought of doing art as the expression I couldn’t get out through other words and an escape, too. Writing, it’s just fun, needed and creative. Right on.

  38. Honesty is what keeps me from
    Honesty is what keeps me from writing most. Usually, based on the “real” facts is when I am able to express most freely. But then again who is this “I”….. Maybe will try a journal, to get past my reluctance of writing…& throw the TV out the window!

  39. Fictional TruthMy inspiration
    Fictional Truth

    My inspiration to write has lain dormant for several years.
    If I were to begin writing again, I imagine the amount of honesty would depend on the type of poem I was writing.

    I believe that even in fiction there is much truth.

  40. Speaking for Myself…My
    Speaking for Myself…

    My writing needs to be honest. Even my personas are histrionic charicatures of myself or someone else. I’m harsh on myself in my writing. I write really candidly about everything that happens to and the response is amazing. I wrote a couple poems on the old site about going through the experience of my then fiancee now ex-fiancee being brutally raped. Writing’s not a release that would suggest some kind of catharsis. I like confronting not providing relief. It doesn’t even really feel cathartic to me because in some sense I want to capture that moment or emotion and each time I re-read something I’ve written I re-live the emotion or the experience and I do that willingly. If it can transport me to that place, maybe it can transport someone else and illicit some sort of reaction. When I posted them poems about my fiancee’s rape on the Action Poetry board the responses were astounding. Some in poetic form, others just people moved to respond and offer support, or advice, or just…something. But that kind of reaction doesn’t come from writing which only serves to exorcise the author’s own demons. That amounts to nothing more than jacking off on paper really. The object, forme anyway, is to take my own experience, personality, etc. and translate it into a medium (a poem or song or play or story) which communicates that experience or part of my personality in a way that makes it broadly applicable to everyday life (either philosophically or substantially). For me, that’s where the really affecting experiences occur. The progeny of my name, the Situationists, spoke of the “revolution of everyday life” in an attempt to shatter the “society of the spectacle” and I think in some sense that is what true art, or meaningful art succeeds at doing in some measure.

  41. Fundamentals of
    Fundamentals of poeticizing?

    This is one of those questions
    questions that reject resolution
    in the line of defense as countless are
    inert to mock the attempts made
    yet, indefinite are the tribunes
    philosophers in their own mind.
    so pragmatic is their resolve:

    There is no poetry…only poets.

    poetry is the institution, enigmatic
    a dying illusion…
    only takes a needle to burn the hay
    and cleanse itself of its embarassment
    about a desperate people seeking futility as if it were God itself.
    “The answer to the question is: to question the answer.” –Eschatological Humor(c)2005

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