Poet and Speaker
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
Poets, as well as novelists and playwrighst, 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
Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes
The following poem captures the beauty and tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.
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
Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.
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.
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.
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.
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