Lovers, Liars, Monsters, Saints: You and the Persona Poem
Ancient Greeks wore masks to express the emotions of the characters they were playing during dramatic productions. There was a pragmatic reason for this–it was often difficult for those seated far away to see what emotion the character being portrayed was feeling. And so the exaggerated face could be seen from the furthest reaches of the mezzanine. But adopting the persona of a subject has been employed long before Antiquity. At the onset of our own social and neurological development, we act. We pretend. We are someone else. It is, thus, natural for writers to attempt to embody the voices, thoughts, and actions of the other.
Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, Requiem for the Orchard, and Post Subject: A Fable. He also co-edited A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A founding member, Oliver serves as the co-chair of the Kundiman advisory board. Additionally he serves on the Executive Board of Trustees for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. His work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as American Poetry Review, Tin House, The Southern Review, and Poetry. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at PLU.