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This report is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Everything and Nothing Tara Bergin

On Avoiding the Personal Voice in Poetry

Sometimes, in order to prove the irrationality of believing in God, or the spirits, or the force of imagery, people will say: 'But it's just a made-up story', or 'It's just a symbol to represent something else entirely', etc. etc. This sort of statement can be regarded as an alarm bell, to warn us of the speaker's position in life: one of total rejection of the power of metaphor. I mean, of the actual, real truth of metaphor, not simply of its rightful place in literature, for example, which a lot of people will happily accept. Which is not to say that this alarm bell should warn us off these people, far from it, but it should perhaps set off a thought or two, regarding our own position in relation to theirs. How important to us is our belief in metaphor?

I say 'us' and 'our': an irritating habit of including you, the reader, in my own thought process. I should say 'me' and 'my' - but that would ruin things. That would destroy my attempt to lift these ideas up and away from just me, and to make them more about us. By removing the first person singular, I am trying, in other words, to find a more general platform on which my ideas and yours might meet, quite formally, and begin a debate, possibly, or a dance, or a stroll along the pier at least. The point is that the poet often doesn't want the reader to ...


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