About the Poems
by Ivy Kleinbart
I wanted to see what I could learn from a study in self-portraiture in which the model was not entirely me, or at times, not me at all. In “Self-Portrait as an Echo,” the mirror reflection speaks back to its subject, so there’s a perspectival shift in which the “you” of the poem becomes a quasi-version of me, which forces the “I” to speak from a position of otherness. In “Self-Portrait in Conditionals,” I limited myself by refusing all pronouns and simply reflected on my relationship to my surroundings. Ekphrasis has proven a generative mode of writing for me (“Self-Portrait as Francis Bacon”), a way of saying things I’d never think to say otherwise.
The advantages and difficulties of narrative poetry continue to haunt me, and I find I can inhabit its structure only with certain hitches. “Sick” grew out of an impossible attempt to tell a story that wasn’t mine. “The Mime” began as a jumble of dream and daydream language originally penciled into notebooks and later developed into a meditation on the problem of being unable to speak, or an animated performance of repression. It was one of the first poems I wrote that pleased me, so it’s a thrill to see it published here.