Writing Mini-Lessons: The Power of I


“The capacity to revise determines the true writer. Suspect the finished poem.
Your evil twin wants your poem to be finished.”

~ Wesley McNair

“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”
~ Emily Dickinson

Crafting a good piece of writing is hard work. The same is true of good poetry. The work of the writer, you, is to determine the feeling or experience, find your truth, choose and arrange, make myriad adjustments, ponder, polish, and finally usher the piece into the world. There is a common myth about exceptional writing, that it is some magical experience whereby the piece arrives, fully crafted, in the writer’s head, simply waiting to burst forth onto the page. The truth is often much more prosaic. A study by British scientists revealed that it takes a person 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a discipline. Good writers and good poets are skilled because they work at it. They know good writing because they read widely and frequently. They understand the critical role of revision and revise toward their sense of what a good piece does and can do.

Although you’ve been writing free verse poetry, we’re going to formally define it.

One Definition of Free Verse Poetry:

Free verse is poetry that doesn’t have a regular rhythm, line length, or rhyme scheme. It relies on the natural rhythms of speech. Today it is the form of poetry that most American poets prefer. Free-verse poetry invents and follows its own forms, patterns, and rules.

Although free verse poets follow their own rules, there are some conventions, or approaches, that make their writing stronger. One important convention is The Power of I. Novice writers are often tempted to hide, keeping themselves and their own voice outside of the writing. However, you are the only one who can share your feelings, observations, ideas, and stories. Embrace them. One way to do this is by implementing The Power of I.

Remember the Power of I

First person experiences need a first person. Make sure your I is present and is thinking, feeling, seeing, acting. Give your readers someone to be with. Find your voice as a poet. Wave your I flag in your poetry.

A word about point of view.  In literature, point of view, is the vantage point from which a story is told.  In the first-person point of view, the person telling the story is also a character in the story, and uses words such as I, me, and my to tell what he or she observes and experiences.