Pronouns in Poems

When my students wrote academic essays, I had a whole list of words that were “taboo.” The taboo word that gave them the most grief was “you.” They wanted to write clauses such as “when you miss your curfew,” or “when you put on your football uniform,” or “if you really love someone…” And I would invariably write “ME???” out in the margin.

My students only sometimes found me amusing.

My point was that one should avoid second person pronouns in academic writing because “you” is the reader–and that’s not usually who the writer means by “you.” In fact, normally my students were actually talking about themselves.

In poetry, however, I quite like the use of “you.” It puts the reader in a strange place. Obviously, the reader isn’t this mysterious other person–but the reader is standing in this person’s shadow perhaps, or this “you” is right behind the reader, so it seems as if the poet is speaking directly to the audience, but the poet is actually speaking past the audience to some unknown person.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write a poem using “you.” Be sure to add some imagery–always. Always imagery. Make that your motto.

And these jagged blues,
Like a hole
Torn in my favorite sweater.

With my ragged sighs,
My moth-eaten soul
Isn't made for this weather.

			--S. Stowers

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