Distance in writing

The words breathed on the page and I lost them. But where were my eyes? Too outside myself, or too deep inside. My voice became ostracised. 

For me, the narrative voice and distance of the narrator is one of the most interesting aspects of a poem or novel. A text should be like an entity of its own; and the voice that it uses to speak to and engage with its audience is incredibly important in order to create that hook that will hopefully bind the reader and the text together in that private, intimate relationship, where the reader is captivated and unable to stop reading until the very end.

In my poetry, I find that the narrator is often very intimately connected with the subject, but comments as if a distant observer; yet the intimacy is still subtly apparent.

Even when I write in the first person, the narrator seems to pull back from the action and is caught up in thought and observation of the moment rather than focusing on what they themselves are doing.  This is definitely true of my poetry, anyway. My prose is in too much of an early stage for me to have really played around with style and figured out a narrative voice that works for me and my subject.

Other than placing my narrator at a distance from the subject, however, I do not distance myself from my poetry or try to cover myself up. Some of my poems are very contextualised and based on real-life memories and situations; others are entirely factual; or ideas or fantasies in my head; and sometimes it is an unbalanced mix of both in one poem. This is difficult, and I can understand why a lot of writers do try to erase themselves out of their work and distance themselves entirely. But, I feel this is fruitless as if you were meant to be a poet, you will always come out of the text in some way or another. The pain of  showing a poem to someone always makes me flinch in the most pleasurable of ways.


I think the way Jack Vettriano explores distance as an artist is stunning.

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night                                                             and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.                                                       The room is turning slowly away from the moon.                                                               — Carol Ann Duffy                  


3 Comments Add yours

  1. He captures body language almost perfectly :) I will reply to your email soon, been busy lately.

  2. Great post Hannah, and thanks for commenting over at my blog. Narration and POV is a very important part of all literature…obviously so much so that we both wrote about it today! :D

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