Persona Poems

Elizabeth Leiba
After teaching creative writing for 10 years, I still love reading the persona poems my students write...

The assignment is to write a poem from the perspective of an inanimate object. The object is speaking to me. And it's so beautiful to watch my students' writing blossom, as their words invite me into this object's world.

They usually pick the most interesting and surprising objects: a forgotten stuffed teddy bear, a broken down car in the driveway, a crack in the sidewalk.

Grading my final poem last night, my heart started to pound, as I realized my student's persona poem was written from the perspective of a Hangman's Tree.

She describes herself as a witness, smelling burning, lynched flesh. She begs to be cut down and burned along with the body. She desperately wants to escape what she has just seen. The vision of the black body swinging from her branches is too much for her to bare.

I cried and felt goosebumps raise on my arms. In 10 years of teaching this class, a student has never picked an object like this. And I have cried reading student poetry, but I have not cried like this.

We are changed. We are changed, and we will never be the same.