Intimate Poetry 8


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Theprimary function of poetry is to enable readers look at things keenlyand get an inner and in-depth understanding. While science enhancesour intelligence, poetry enriches our moral insight throughappropriate choice of theme and tone (Evelynoconnor,2011, par5).Therefore, intimate poetry can be described as the kind of poetrythat deep inside, gives a clear understanding of intimacy. C.K.Williams and C.D. Wright are two poets, who have successfully writtena collection of poems with powerful, intimate messages. Wrightcollaborated with Deborah Luster in a project they gave the name “TheOne Big Self”. From the project, Wright has written a collection ofpoems full of sympathy and intimacy. Williams is another poet whoreleased a collection of poems, which he gave the title “WritersWriting Dying.” In this book, Williams presents emotional poemscharacterized by his desire and intimacy in poetry. This essay willdiscuss intimate poetry as portrayed in the “One Big Self” byWright and “Writers Writing Dying” by Williams.

Wrightand Luster paid visits to three prisons in Louisiana to portraysuccessfully the hard times prisoners face. Wright interviewed theprisoners while Luster took their photographs (Teicher, 2007, par1).The interviews with the male and female inmates form the basis forWright`s poems. Wrights presents the poems in prose, letters,lineated verses, and other forms. Using the tools of poetry such asrhyme, poetry, and accrual, Wright brings out the intimate feelingsof the inmates towards their loved ones in the outside world (2007,P39). From the collection of poems from this project, there is clearevidence that prisoners have deep feelings and attachment to theoutside world, especially their loved ones. For instance, during theinterviews, one of the inmates asked Wright whether she had seenPrincess Diana when she mentioned that she had been to England. Sucha question portrays the inner desires of the prisoner. Despite beinghard criminals, Wright describes the emotional and intimate side ofthis population of people through his poems (Teicher, 2007, par1).

Inhis book, Wright utilizes all poetry’s tricks to present the realevents and emotions of the inmates that he interviews. Wrightscarefully chooses the right words and lyrics that penetrate deepinside into his readers’ hearts. One Big Self explains the realaccounts of prison life and how the inmates feel restricted in termsof expressing their inner feelings of intimacy. The poems elaborateinmates’ responses and from the tone of the poems, Wright hassuccessfully brought out the intimate feelings of each inmate(Teicher, 2007, par2). Through his collection of poems in this book,Wright has focused his effort in reuniting the outside world and theprisoners. From the interviews, it is clear that inmates want to beviewed by the outside world in a certain way, “their largerselves”. Through his poems, Wright has successfully portrayed theinmates to his readers in the real persons (2007, P45). Therefore,the poems have explained the actual intimate feelings and desires ofthe detainees. The readers cannot fail to understand prisoners desirefor intimacy especially with their loved ones.

ThePoet’s approach is to make his subjects’ voices as smooth aspossible with few if any interferences (Teicher, 2007, par3). Thisapproach helps the poet in bringing out the tone of the recordedinterviews and hence brings out the intimacy in their voices. On theother hand, the photographer gives the subject the freedom to bephotographed in their preferred postures, to communicate their innerfeelings with the outside world. The work of the poet and thephotographer together bring out the inner feelings of the inmates andtheir desires to reunite with their loved ones. The poet has adoptedvarious modes which he repeats across his collection of his poems inthe One Big Self, to help the reader understand the inmates’ innerfeelings of intimacy.

Oneof the devices that Wright uses to bring out intimacy in his poems isthe letter (Teicher, 2007, par4). A letter is a standard form ofcommunication among inmates and their usually express their innerfeelings through writing. The several letters repeated by Wright inhis collection of poems emphasizes the frequency and the intensitythat the inmates would want to remain intimate and interact withtheir loved ones on the other side of the world. Despite the lack offreedom, prisoners are not denied language and hence can expresstheir inner feelings and desires. The poet writes the letters to thereaders to touch the feelings of the readers and be able tounderstand and sympathize with the inmates. For instance, on page 39,the following lines about a letter penetrate a reader’s heart andsoften the inner feelings to sympathize with the prisoners (Wright,2007)

Macktrapped a spider

Keptin a pepper jar

Henamed her Iris

Caughtroaches to feed her

Heloved Iris

WhenIris died

Hewrote her a letter

Suchpowerful, intimate lines not only arouse feelings of intimacy in areader but also enable the reader to connect intimately with thepoem. This approach is important in poetry since it allows the poetcapture and retains the attention and feelings of his or her readersthroughout the poem.

Accordingto Wallingford, (1988, P37), the poem Lowell’s Graveyard by Robertis so intimate. Similar to William’s dilemma, Robert is strugglingwith the dilemma of comparing and determining which poem is betterthan the other. From Robert’s point of view, intimate poems alwayshave a long-lasting impact on a reader’s mind. He recounts thepoems such as the “Quaker Graveyard”, “Howl” and “the LostSon” and admits some of the lines of these poems are still vivid inhis memory. From Roberts’ perspective, we can say that poems thatportray intimacy are the best since they significantly touch thehearts of the readers.

WilliamC.K. is another poet who has utilized features of poetry to bring outintimacy in his collection of poems in “Writers Writing Dying.”The title of the book portrays how intimate the poet is with poetry.In most of his poems, William often uses the tactic of long lines andphrases to bring out intimacy. In the poem &quotBianca Burning,&quotWilliam uses this tactic to suggest persistence of sexual desire. Hesays, &quotThesexual terror lions are roaring into my ears as I make my way betweentheir cages…………” (Teicher,2007, par3).Thelength of the line portrays how far a person can go to achieveintimacy with someone or something that he or she desires.

Inanother poem “Salt”, William writes with humour and poignancyabout aging (Williams,2012, P32).His choice of words evokes in his readers, silent thoughts ofintimacy associated with the past activities people engage whileyoung. In many of his poems, Williams is trying to portray hisintimacy and desire to continue writing and reading until he dies.However, he is not so intimate with his old age since it isassociated with various indignities such as the inability to composeeasily and finish writing a single poem. He explains a poet`sprogress through life by likening it to the development of a persontowards death. According to William, a poet writing towards death isleaving a record of his desires and intimacy in poetry and thedevelopment in the lifetime (2012, P38).

Williamlikens a poet`s progress in writing to the process of reproduction.He confesses that if he lie down and produce another single, damplittle poem, he could derive a lot of pleasures (William, 2012, P45).In a poem titled “Whacked”, William compares poems impresses areader most. It is clear that William is facing the same dilemma,which Robert Hass is struggling to resolve in his poem, Lowell`sgraveyard. However, William gives the reader the impression that anintimate poem will always leave a long lasting impact on a reader`smind. He testifies to have a vivid flow of sweet memories fromvarious poems by poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Whitman.

BothC.D Wright and C.K William are talented poets who have successfullyutilized intimate poetry to express their feelings and communicatewith the readers. Comparing two of William’s poems, “Whacked”and “A hundred bones”, the writer carefully chooses words thatpenetrate into the readers’ hearts. “Whacked” is a poem thatcompares poems to determine which has the greatest impacts on thereaders. On the other hand, “A hundred bones” explains theworries and uncertainties that are associated with military wars.From the poem Whacked, the poet is trying to compare the effect ofvarious poems on readers. In whacked, the poet explains theimportance of intimate poems and their impacts on the reader. On theother hand, the poem A hundred bones use words and sentences, whichevoke feelings of pity and intimacy towards the mother who fears forthe safety of her son during war times.


Fromthe paper, there is more than enough evidence that poets such asWright and Williams are utilizing intimate poetry to attract morereaders for their poetry work. In the &quotBig One Self,&quotWright has successfully portrayed intimacy in her various poems. Theintimacy in the poems has enabled the readers connect with theprisoners and view them in their real selves. Wright is trying toshow her readers that the people behind bars despite being hardcriminals are intimate and long to be with their loved ones in theoutside world. William`s book &quotWriters Writing Dying&quot iscomprised of a collection of poems that explain his intimaterelationship with poetry. Using the approach of lengthy sentences, heemphasizes the poet`s desire and intimacy in writing that makes himor her write till death. In his one of his poem, &quotWhacked&quotthe poet compares poems on the basis of their effects on the readers.He argues that intimate poems have long-lasting effects on a reader`smemories.


Evelynoconnor 2011. Poetictechniques &amp terminology.Retrieved from: [Accessedon 23rdSeptember 2015]

TeicherC.M 2007.Craig Morgan Teicher on C. D. Wright’s One Big Self: An Investigation.Retrieved from: [Accessed on 23rd September 2015]

WallingfordK 1988. RobertLowell`s Language of the Self.UNCPress Books.

WilliamsC.K 2012. WritersWriting Dying: Poems.Farrar,Straus &amp Giroux Inc

WrightC.D 2007. OneBig Self.CopperCanyon Press