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Poet and Speaker

Updated on April 10, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Arthur Miller

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Langston Hughes

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Who speaks the poem?

The speaker of a poem is not always the poet. A poem is a crafted performance, a portrayal, or a dramatization similar to a play. The speaker is often a created character.

Most poets possess a sincere fondness for their poems. They have no compunction about claiming the importance of their life experience, their personal goals, dreams, and heartfelt struggles that inform their poems.

A Poet and His/Her Poem

Often many poets may claim that their poems are their children, but it is important to keep in mind that children and their parents are not the same. Children may, and often do, hold very different beliefs and attitudes from their parents. And a poem's speaker may profess very different attitudes from the poet who wrote that speaker into existence, many times for that exact purpose.

Speaking through Characters

Even though poets are close to their poems, they may not always place biographical information in their poems. Poets may not always reveal their exact beliefs in their poems. Like playwrights, poets usually create characters through which they speak in their poems.

Readers are not likely to confuse the characters in a play with the playwright. Thus, no one would make the mistake of thinking that Willie Loman, the character in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, is Miller himself. Miller has explained that Loman is, in fact, based on the experiences of one of Miller's uncles.

Yet because Langston Hughes has written in his poem titled "Cross," "My old man is a white old man / And my old mothers black," readers often surmise that Langston Hughes himself had a white father. Both Hughes' parents, however, were black. Hughes has created a character in his poem, just as Arthur Miller created Willie Loman in his play.

The Speaker is Not Necessarily the Poet

When discussing a poem, the reader is always on more solid ground if s/he refers to the person vocalizing the words as "the speaker," instead of "the poet." A poet can give his character any ideas or beliefs that are necessary for the execution of the poem's purpose.

In his poem, "Cross" Langston Hughes explores the idea of how an individual of mixed race might feel. So he created a mixed race character and let him speak. Hughes, himself, cannot be testifying to how that person feels, because he does not actually have the experience himself. But he is perfectly capable of exploring the idea, the "what if" situation, that poets engage in quite often.

Exploration and Creativity

The poet, as well as the novelist and playwright, can explore feelings and thoughts and situations that they have not personally experienced. They can explore and dramatize beliefs that they do not necessarily hold. For this reason, it is always safer to assume that the poet is creating a character rather than merely testifying, that he is exploring ideas rather than merely elaborating his own beliefs.

Even though the poet may, in fact, be testifying and issuing his own beliefs, it is still more accurate and safer to assume that the poem is being spoken by a character, rather than by the poet.

SRF Lake Shrine, Windmill Chapel

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Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes

The Windmill Chapel

In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.

Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.

The Literary Life

After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.

As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.

Literary Studies

Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.

However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.

After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.

Publishing History

Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.

Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.

Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.

Spirituality

Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."

Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.

Online Literary Presence

In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries.

Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
    Author

    Linda Sue Grimes 2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, John. Good to hear corroboration from a practicing poet. In her poem, "There's been a Death, in the opposite House," Emily Dickinson's speaker says,

    Somebody flings a Mattress out —

    The Children hurry by —

    They wonder if it died — on that —

    I used to — when a Boy —

    The speaker is thus an adult man looking back to when he was a boy. By allowing the notion that the speaker is always the poet, one would have assume that Emily Dickinson was transgendered--not so likely back in the 19th century.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    This is an interesting point of view Linda. I often write poetry about things I have not experienced myself, but they almost always echo my personal view on the subject. Occasionally they will be spoken through a character as in a story but often I am happy to be seen as the poet and speaker.

    I do admit though that I have had readers mistakenly think that some events in my poems are things I have gone through myself. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

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