Columns by April Bernard

Notes on the First Person

8.21.09

Those of us who live within the poetry of past centuries, as well of course as within the poetry of today, are bemused by the current confusion surrounding the first person “I” in poems. From Sappho’s lyrics to the sonnets of Shakespeare, to the odes of Keats and the quatrains of Hardy, the looseness and the elusiveness of the first person has been a hallmark of the lyric from its Western beginnings. When Shakespeare writes, “That time of year thou mayst in me behold, / When yellow leaves, or none, of few, do hang,” he is writing of himself and not writing of himself.

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