Whom Am I? (Part One of I, You, He: Who Are the People in These Poems?)

Photograph of a bust of Janus

Is the “I” of the poem the same as the “I” of the poet? Well, it’s complicated. Sometimes. And then again, sometimes not. And sometimes both. Let me explain. In a fictional narrative written in prose, most readers quickly realize that “I” just means the author chose to write in the first person, and the narrator is just another character. In modern narratives, that’s also often a clue that we shouldn’t necessarily believe everything the narrator has to say. In non-fiction prose, like essays or memoirs, readers generally assume the “I” of the narrative voice is the same as the […]

The Self is Continuously Formed from the Outside In

I have for years now observed that the person I am is determined by the place in which I am. To a distressing level, frankly. Certain ways of being seem inaccessible in some places, utterly. For example in the American suburbs, which is one of the places I least like the person I am, I can’t even access the sense of melancholy of longing for the wilderness I might feel in the city[…]