pronoun confusion is effing with my manuscript

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i am trying to use some of my time on vacation to work on my final portfolio for this semester’s poetry workshop at st. rose. one of our tasks is to combine poems we’ve written for the workshop with some of our older work and end up with the beginnings of a chapbook manuscript.

it is giving me grief, and i was telling myself that it is because i didn’t stick with a single theme during the semester, that there is no thread to follow. still, i have been at it, most recently stumbling upon this: pronoun confusion.

it is a common critique of my poems: who’s the “we”? is this “us” the same pair as the “we”? and who are “they”? and in the set of poems i have in front of me right now, there is no consistent “you.”

well, duh, i tell myself. there’s a you i’ll always hate, a you i’ll always adore, a you i’ll crave forever and ever, and there are you’s who seem to come and go. mostly go. and i think this is true for everyone. go back far enough and our romantic lives have more than one “other.”

and so what happens to the writer and her work when she addresses all the “others,” when the “you” in the poem is different day to day depending on what story or emotion comes to mind? how can she pull them together in a way that makes sense? (“she” is “me,” of course. and i suppose that consideration goes deeper than manuscripts, but anyway …)

few threads go from point A to point B without looping around a bit. i just need to figure out how the poems can get away with it without confusing everyone.


  1. “a you i’ll always hate, a you i’ll always adore, a you i’ll crave forever and ever, and there are you’s who seem to come and go” Could you use phrases like these as the poem titles – make the inconsistency of the you your theme? Just an idea…

    1. i love the idea of working with the confusion instead of fighting it, donna! in a longer manuscript i may just try pulling that off! in this case, a smaller batch, i think i have less wiggle room. i also think i have figured out something that works for this purpose: just going to toss the poems that make it a train wreck. oh, if real life were so easy!

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