This prompt is brought to you by Eric Morago author of What We Ache For and the upcoming chapbook Here for the Friction.
The Warm Up!
The persona poem is a good writing exercise, especially if you find yourself in a rut and feel like you’re writing from the same headspace over and over again. It forces the poet to stretch their imaginative muscles, examine an identity or relationship perhaps outside their comfort zone, and best of all it gives one permission to be strange, different, and fun.
To achieve a good persona poem, wherein the goal is to write in a chosen person or thing’s voice, one must select a persona that I believe speaks to them, but also intrigues. There should be questions posed, which the poet in writing the poem both discovers and answers. How does this persona view the world? The people/things they are connected to? Themselves? What are the facts that are known about the persona, and what does the poet get to make up?
What I think is pretty cool about the persona poem, is how the psyche of the poet can come through organically in its craft, but still stay true to the voice of the persona.
In my poem, “From the Loch, to the Monster,” I gave myself the more difficult challenge of writing in the persona of the lake—an inanimate object. I thought choosing the monster would be too easy because it seemed like the more fun choice. I was wrong. Writing in the voice of the lake gave me a lot of freedom to take the poem in an interesting direction, while still allowing me an anchor to ground it in some heart and honesty. In the end, I felt a connection to the lake I never would have imagined had I not challenged myself to write the poem.
From the Loch, To the Monster | Eric Morago
Thank you for hiding yourself in my body—
for letting only me in on the mystery of you.
I have kept silent and dark for so long, that
the fish are all blind and I cannot recall what
color ever was. But you, my sweet creature,
were worth it. You’ve been banshee’s song.
Sonar-splendor, humming under skin. How
many have come now to put ear to my water,
to my murky heart? I’m no longer an empty
lake of wanting. Tourists, scientists, even
skeptics whisper my name like incantation,
hoping if it is said just so, you will appear
from obscured depths—a riddle’s answer.
Now is the time for the reveal, for release.
This world needs reminding the fantastical
exists, even if unseen. Give more than fin
or neck, blurred in photo—your fingerprint
smeared from the scene. Show hard proof
you are no driftwood, wake or hoax, but
tangible anachronism refuged in shadow.
Let your myth become fact become fame.
Feel no guilt or worry—this is not so much
a breakup, as it is a breakout. You deserve
the limelight, and I the freedom to relearn
sky. How I’ve wished for sun to skip over
my surface like a stone, then sink beneath
so I might shine from bottom up. Finally
brilliant, able to be legend all on my own.
So your challenge is to pick the persona of an inanimate object, an animal, or a fictitious character and discover that connection for yourself. And remember, the trick is finding a persona that you’re drawn to, but do not necessarily know why yet.
Follow your poet gut.
.ERIC MORAGO is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet who believes a poem’s performance on the page is as important on the page as it is off. Currently Eric works with Red Hen Press’ Writing in Schools Program, is the Poet in Residence of the California Work Force Association, and currently curates poetry events for Half Off Books in Whittier, CA. His first full-length collection of poetry and prose entitled, What We Ache For is available from Moon Tide Press. Eric holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach. He can be found at ericmorago.com