I've begun writing a series of poems using a persona. The immediate difficulty is that I’ve read most of Zbigniew Herbert’s ‘Mr Cogito’ poems and it would be awful to write stuff that sounds a bit like them except nowhere near as good. The same goes for Weldon Kees’s ‘Robinson’ poems I mentioned the other day.
I’ve done this kind of thing before, writing as someone who isn’t me and holds opinions that may even be contrary to my own, but contains certain aspects of me. However, I’ve always used the ‘I’ before, even when I wasn’t writing as myself. I’ve never been clear, even in myself, whether that was a good idea or not. Several poems in ‘The Clown of Natural Sorrow’ worked like that – The Hedge Artist, The Actress, The Innocents etc. The poem about the Harry Potter launch featuring an unhinged, scissors-wielding JK Rowling stalker, was originally written in the first person singular. I changed it in case anyone really did believe I thought like that!
Creating a persona, a fictional character who ought to develop over a sequence of poems, is a new challenge. It releases me from the anxiety that people might habitually identify me with the ‘I’ of my poems, but it means I have to get inside the head of a fiction who, already, is quite hard for me to understand.