Characters in Poetry

I was really interested by the poem in the reader for last week’s class by Alena Hairston. It doesn’t have the format I expect from poetry. At first, I thought it was more like a prose poem. But as I read, I realized that it was a dialogue between two characters, each with their own distinct way of speaking through the format of the words on the page. The first character used no spaces, separating sentences or ideas with /. It was a father, talking to his daughter, as specified in the very first line. The father also repeated phrases over and over again. For instance, he starts the poem with, “youaremydaughter/youhaveaduty/youwillnotdisgraceme”. Overall, the style gave the effect that the father is scolding his daughter, speaking quickly, and without stopping to listen to her or to consider what he is saying. The second character, the daughter, uses lots of space in the sentences, and uses short, disconnected phrases. This was especially important I thought because it seemed like the daughter was trying to interrupt her father, but was not succeeding. She said, “but poppa       we are   in love      but poppa     i love him   pop but please poppa.” It is like she was speaking over the father, trying to get him to listen to her. Through the format of the poem, the reader can get a sense of what the characters are like without the poem having to directly say it with words. Through what each character says and the format, the reader can figure out their own interpretation. I thought that was fascinating, that so much information on the characters could come through in poetry without the author having to write out what each character was thinking or doing.

One Reply to “Characters in Poetry”

  1. I, too, was drawn to this poem. I think that the unique format of the poem contributes to its meaning, as well. The author’s craft is evident considering that the tone of the characters’ voices comes through without adjectives, their desperation is apparent in the way that the line is formatted.
    The repetition of this poem is also very powerful, it helps convey the timelessness of the situation and the desperation afflicting the female protagonist.

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