Poets’ Roundtable on Person and Persona

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Lynn Melnick is moderating a discussion on person and persona in poetry on the Los Angeles Review of Books’ site.

From Melnick’s introduction:

I invited a diverse community of poets to think about and respond to these issues, in the hope that I — and you — would gain some insight into the questions that have confused and haunted me for some time now:

  1. Is it ever safe to assume autobiography from a poem? Elegies, for example, almost insist upon it. Are there certain populations that experience the assumption of autobiography more than others?
  2. Is there something inherently wrong with the assumption of autobiography? What are the effects of that assumption?
  3. Who gets to write what stories? Surely white men, most of them straight, have been writing the stories of others for centuries, and much of this we call “classic literature.” Should we be able to write about whatever subject haunts us, regardless of who or what we are?
  4. What makes the voice of the speaker authentic, what makes it phony, and is it ever okay to use certain subjects as easy emotional route markers?

There’s a wonderful variety of responses. Part One includes responses from poets, Metta Sáma and Alex Dimitrov.  Part Two features responses from Amy King and Cate Marvin. Part Three includes responses from L. Lamar Wilson, B.K. Fischer, and Fletcher Lauer.


Jonterri Gadson is the author of the chapbooks, Interruptions(MIEL, 2014) and Pepper Girl (YesYes Books, 2012). She is the recipient of scholarships/fellowships from Bread Loaf, Cave Canem, University of Dayton and the University of Virginia's Creative Writing MFA program. Her poetry is forthcoming or published in Los Angeles Review, Callaloo, The Collagist, Anti-, PANK and other journals. She is an Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing at Bloomfield College in New Jersey. More from this author →