By Alex Zitzner
On November 9th, the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild had the honor to host a craft talk put on by MATC professor Matt Guenette. Having authored three poetry collections including Vasectomania (University of Akron Press, 2017), American Busboy (University of Akron Press, 2011), and Sudden Anthem (Dream Horse Press, 2008), Matt was able to share his insights on the power of the persona poem, a poetic style which heavily influenced his second collection, American Busboy.
For those unfamiliar with the persona poem, Matt described it as a way to, “...take on the point of view of something or someone other than yourself.” Well known examples of the persona poem include “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, “Herbert White” and “Helen West” by Frank Bidart, and “Miranda’s Drowned Book” by Debora Greger. Although this style of writing creates the need to put the writer in the position of someone or something they can only imagine knowing what it is like to be, Matt explained, “There is a funny way of finding pieces of ourselves in others.” Following this thought, a few examples were given to the audience on how they could also find their self in someone or something else:
Matt started the audience out with thinking about classic lines their Mother’s would always say to get them in the mindset of seeing the world from a different perspective. This helps later on when going to write the poem!
Channel Another Writer
For one poem in American Busboy, Matt brought out his inner Allen Ginsberg, explaining, “There is a certain energy in his voice that helped me express how I wanted to say what was being said.” By getting in the mindset of a different author, the writer can utilize different energy and tap into something they didn’t know they had.
Do the Impossible
In another example, Matt read a poem where he and his newborn child had an extremely in depth conversation about the philosophy of the world. Since this never could have actually happened, it proved to be a good opportunity to explore the wisdom of someone who seemingly couldn’t be as wise as you due to their age.
Thanks to Matt and his help exploring the world of the persona poem, this proves how many more angles the writer can come from instead of the usual confessional poem. If you would like to read some of Matt’s work, each of his books mentioned above are linked!