Lesson #3: The Problem with Pronouns in Poetry

I hesitate with my pointer poised over the “Publish” button. I chew my lip, gnaw on my fingernails (a nasty habit), and why? I screwed up. Once again, I am confronted by my own youthful foolishness. I wrote a poem about an event I witnessed three decades ago and did not date the piece, nor did I reference or record what the event was about. Why in the world would I? I wrote it! Well, 30 years later, I have no recollection of what the blasted poem is about.

No – I – dea.

I remember writing the poem. As often happened in those days, I wrote in a bit of a frenzy after I heard about whoever it was who said, “We didn’t think you cared,” after the event. The flippant remark upset me. I remember that feeling. However, today I cannot remember the context of the poem.

Where I went wrong is Lesson #3: Pronouns.

Like a Pied Piper it brought
the masses to town’s center.
This time, though, they dance
and sing their chants for him,
all together, all one. Together,
the people joined, young and old.

No children this time.

See what I did there? That’s the first stanza. The it, of course, is the cause. I know they and their are the masses who gathered. But who is him?

The air was wet with a chilling mist,
but they stood there ’til the end
with banners raised and voices —
singing the songs of their cause.
No one is paying the piper,
and the followers are mad.

Yes, I even mention cause, but with no reference to what the actual cause might have been. Also, incase you weren’t sure, one is a pronoun in this example, instead of just a number.

Is anybody listening? If they are
what do they hear?
No guns were raised, but fists
of love; no fireballs tossed, but words.

Hearts were pure with intent,
but that isn’t what is seen.
They see the few get out of hand
and say they’re you and me.

The preceding stanzas are okay, but again stuffed with pronouns. Now, because I was unclear in the first few stanzas, the above two are even more unclear because the they and the anybody likely refer to a different group of people.

Are you confused yet? Yeah, me too. That’s my point.

The future of the world rests, solid,
like a yoke upon these people’s shoulders,
but the reins are held taut
by the leather chairs
and their owners–
The ones who say,
‘We didn’t think you cared.’

Not as bad, but still – whose shoulder’s?

So I hesitate; should I post the poem? Upon inspection, it is not a good piece of poetry; it makes no sense. If the poem doesn’t make sense to me now, when I witnessed the event, what will it say to the reader? I did not date it. Could someone misconstrue and think that I am talking about a certain politician, or a particular march? I’m not, but I could be. I have always thought, let the poem do the talking, but if the poem is incomprehensible, what benefit?

I take this opportunity, then, as a teachable moment: Pronouns are necessary tools in writing, but in moderation; they are not meant to replace nouns throughout a piece of writing, and when you take into consideration the concise, compact nature of poetry, though still necessary, pronouns can quickly blur and confuse.

What will I do with the poem, “We Didn’t Think You Cared”? I’ll keep it, and eventually fix it, but it will have to become a collage of political observations, which means it may lose a little something in the tweaking, then again, it may gain something.

~ Linda

P.S. I did not highlight all of the pronouns, as I said pronouns are necessary. I tried to focus on those pronouns that would have been ideal places for nouns or at least some kind of clarification.

I occasionally toss out the lessons I am learning about myself with respect to writing and the writing process, or about my experiences blogging, or a combination of the two as in this case. My hope is to help and to provide…wisdom?  Well, never-the-less, thank you for stopping by!

via Daily Prompt: Hesitate

2 thoughts on “Lesson #3: The Problem with Pronouns in Poetry

  1. Sara March 2, 2017 / 9:59 am

    First off, this makes me realize I need to read more poetry. Second, I have never considered (over enthusiastic) pronoun use in poetry. Your point probably extends to fiction and non-fiction too, which are things I still write on occasion, so I’ll keep it in mind while editing.

    Like

  2. scatterednotebooks March 2, 2017 / 5:12 pm

    Thank you! I hope you enjoy delving a bit more into poetry. It can be fun. I debated with myself about adding the “in Poetry” portion of the title, because I agree with you that this issue extends beyond just poetry. Since poetry is sometimes an exercise in ‘less is more’ (hopefully at least), I decided it was okay to leave it.

    Like

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