POPcraft: Developing the Persona

by Jennifer Met

In a persona poem the author writes from the point of view of (and with the voice of) another person. Whether this person is contemporary or historical, considered controversial or heroic, a stranger or close family, the persona poem can be a powerful approach into a particular subject. The first part of this two part spread will help clarify the purpose for using the persona technique instead of using a variation of your own voice as the speaker. The second part will help the poem more fully inhabit them.

Part One:
Pick someone to write a poem about. Shuffle the cards while thinking about your poem’s subject and why you want to write as this particular person. Ask yourself and answer questions of purpose as you create a “box” (of a poem) in which to put them. Deal the cards and flip them one at a time as you contemplate each question below.
1. Why does this person interest you?
2. Why does this person really interest you (a reason of which you’re unaware)?
3. What aspect or theme will draw in others as well?
4. What approach should you use when writing as this person? Is your poem a confession, a tirade, a journal entry? Is the voice public or private? Embarrassed or celebratory?
5. What shadow aspect of the persona should I explore? The shadow self is a concept coined by Carl Jung to describe the darker aspects of your personality that you have disowned as a coping strategy, yet are still present and influential. Shadow work involves bringing the darker aspects of the self that you repress, ignore and generally keep hidden (from yourself and others) into the light. So what is the persona keeping hidden that may be subconsciously driving them?
6. What is the overarching, unstated purpose of writing as this person? Is it to bring awareness to a subject, humanize a devil, explore the archetype of mothers everywhere? Is it to gain access into a specific world to which you would otherwise not be privy? What about this person makes them worthy of your voice? What connects you? What lesson can you teach together?
7. How does the persona limit the poem?
8. How does the persona enhance the poem?
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