But recently, as I am promoting my little ebook of poems, the obvious answer is not so obvious to everybody. For instance, when I am registering to have my link added to an ebook directory, it’s hit or miss whether “poetry” is included in the fiction or non-fiction category. Sometimes, “poetry” is in neither category but in a limbo of its own.
Bloggers who provide book reviews often stipulate what kind of books they are interested in reading, which is something I scan carefully so as not to waste their time or mine by sending them a query. If they say they read all kinds of fiction, I assume they mean poetry as well. However, I have received followup messages to my queries stating the contrary.
To my thinking, poetry is the ultimate fiction, even though I am the first to admit that when I write I draw heavily from my real life experiences in the tradition of “confessional poets” such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell, and more recently Marie Howe and Sharon Olds, to name a few.
The best poems in the confessional tradition are the ones that are relevant beyond the poet’s life to touch readers where they live. This requires taking “poetic license”–that is, embellishing or toning down an actual incident or even never mentioning it but letting symbolism carry the weight of the emotional truth of it all. The world portrayed in a poem is not the real world, it is artiface.
Even the most straightforward descriptions of nature or objects in the physical world are highly influenced by the perspective of the poet and the unique language she or he chooses to express these thoughts.
It strikes me that even in non-fiction, writers bring their own perspective to the work. Textbooks often have to be reissued because of outdated perspective in the face of new information or simply modern thinking. I’m wondering if perhaps biographies could just as easily be considered fiction?
What are your thoughts?
[This post was included in the September 2012 edition of the Third Sunday Blog Carnival.]
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011