17: Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic monologue in poetry, also known as a persona poem, shares many characteristics with a theatrical monologue: an audience is implied; there is no dialogue; and the poet speaks through an assumed voice—a character, a fictional identity, or a persona. – poets.org


Not extinguished, not quite,
I burn still here, waiting to discover
what soil might nourish me now.

You and I, we were wolf and lamb
but no little child came to lead us
and the world is a hungry place.

That flaw, that madness in you,
it was a new room, suddenly,
in the house of my heart;
it was as a new colour
or an extra limb, intimately alien.

And you… you were strange again,
as you were when we first met in the garden,
But I chose you in your strangeness
and I preferred the danger
of your open sky to the cage
of my father’s making.

This was another hard one for me. I ended up going with the convention of using an existing fictional character, like in Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” because that seemed easier than making up my own character like in Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” I went with Desdemona because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about her of the years as I’ve been teaching Othello.  I would always ask my students to discuss why Desdemona refuses to name Othello as her murderer, instead blaming herself. This poem is a meditation on that moment in the play, picking up threads of imagery from Shakespeare.



2 thoughts on “17: Dramatic Monologue

  1. What a marvellous poem. I love the madness in him being, for her, a new room in the house of her heart. Such a strange and compelling logic.
    Do you know about our conference on poetry and biography? Not quite the same thing but related: http://poetryandbiography.net/

    • Thanks!

      I did know about the conference – it looks so good! I should be back in Wellington by then so I may be able see some of it. My plans are pretty up in the air at the moment though.

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