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Volume 3 | Issue 1 | September 2008 | 

Persona Poems
Introduction and interviews by : Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi

Miriam Levine

All lyric poets use the mask

Persona poems? Dramatic monologues. Browning's are very good, very dramatic. His come across as speeches plucked out of a play. Ai, an American poet, uses the form. She made a name for herself with her book, "Cruelty." Louise Gluck takes on a mythological persona. It's a way of doubling off, of amplifying. Do you want to experiment with them? Don't you think all lyric poets use the mask; that is a voice that is not their usual voice? Blaga Dimitrova does, I think. Although I do not have a daughter--actually I have a son who never begged for a tattoo--I took the voice of a mother speaking to her daughter in this poem:


You beg for a tattoo like your friend’s.
A band of stars at your ankle.
There’s no way to escape regret.
Indelible dye makes it worse.

Growth-spurts knock you out.
The cold makes you drowsy.
That’s nothing new.

Don’t sleep too long.
Dark night never gets tired of holding you.

Get up and remember the song.

You can sing as you dart and kick:
I have to be careful when I dance.
My dye-job is fading.
And white hair grows at the roots.

What do you want me to do? Lie here with you?

Or break every mirror and never go out?
I’ll wait for the sun to light us both.

You’re on your feet. We’re facing the same way,
the sun does what it’s supposed to do,
the mirror angled to the window,
your face just behind mine.

Miriam Levine’s collection of poems, The Dark Opens, was awarded the 2007 Autumn House Poetry Prize, chosen by Mark Doty. She the author of three poetry collections; In Paterson, a novel; Devotion a memoir; and A Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and The Pushcart Prize anthology. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and grants from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation. Professor Emerita at Framingham State College where she chaired the English Department and coordinated the Arts and Humanities Program, Levine lives in Massachusetts and Florida









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