Monday, July 21, 2008

You're it this time...

I tend to write a lot of poems in the second person, a point of view that can be problematic. After all, not all readers want to be implicated when they sit down with a poem, especially since second person "you" is such a direct and intimate manner of address. When it's done well I really like it.

Thinking of this I can't help but think of the words of an Ani DiFranco song:
"Every song has a you, a you that the singer sings to, and you're it this time..."

Perhaps it's because I'm a writer, but when I read poems in the second person I don't identify as the "you" so much as I do with the speaker. In any case, I just started reading Dan Chiasson's Natural History and he uses second person quite frequently and does it very well, I think, especially in this poem.
Love Song (Sycamores)

Stop there, stop now, come no closer
I said, but you followed me anyway.
You made a bed for us in the woods.
There were sycamore boughs overhead.

Stop there. Stop now. I calculated that
the number of birds singing
on any given morning
was a function of the sycamores plus my hangover.

I said, Stop there, but you followed me
even when I tore our bed to pieces,
I did that, I brought anger into the bower
and the sycamores became menacing shoulders.

And the birds cried, scared, a little embarrassed.
And we paced back and forth, under
the menacing shoulders of the sycamores.
The birds made nests inside our heads.

When you held my fist between your two hands,
I pretended to be subdued. But then
I opened my fist easily
and scattered your strength all over the bower.

When you ran towards me, I said, Stop there,
stop now, you'll end up
in a stranger's life
; and when you ran away
I said the same words over again, louder.

(Dan Chiasson, from Natural History, Knopf 2005)

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