Not fiction, and not non-fiction, poetry occupies the space squarely between. Truth revealed through carefully orchestrated snippets of facts and fiction combined. Fiction revealing the self through the lens of the Other. Even the most autobiographical of poets create detail when necessary to resonate with emotional truth. Even the least autobiographical poet cannot completely excise the self. Like a car mirror, poems reveal and distort the reader’s image of the poet.
With the rise in popularity of blogs and social media, readers are ever more conditioned to perceive anything that appears like autobiography as just that, unless labeled otherwise. Since only fiction and some television programs and big screen films are explicitly labeled as ‘story’ poetry seems to be edging its way toward the autobiography end of the spectrum, moving closer and closer to being perceived as a true mirror of the self.
‘Poetry = autobiography’ is a sad myth. If the poet buys into the myth, she gives up tools at hand to create the poems. If the reader buys into the myth, he misses out on the layered experience that poetry simultaneously of the world and of the self can provide, like listening to only one track of a multi-track audio recording.
What do you think poets or readers can do to hold the middle ground between fiction and fact? Can they avoid the idea that all poems are an accurate mirror into the poet’s life?