Self-reflexive poetry is the appearance of the artist within the art and statements. He or she uses literary theories and techniques made known within a fictional narrative of a poem. Emily Dickinson was quite adept at this. Most may readily identify with her style in her poem "hope is the thing with feathers." Here’s an example by another poet: This is wit using “intertextual” writing. Saadi Youssef borrowed two lines from a Pablo Neruda poem entitled El Corazon de Magallangco or The Heart of Magellan. Neruda’s piece was written when he was in exile from his homeland of Peru and part of his collection General Song. The general theme is one of struggling for social justice viewed through the history of a Latin America Marxist. Youssef has used the lines as commentary. Neruda’s theme obviously resonates with Youssef who like many writers, educators, and intellectuals fled Iraq in 1978 when Saddam Hussein assumed absolute power.

Then Youssef adds another layer of textual meaning. Notice how the poet stops after each opening line with no intention of going on. In addition he directly addresses the reader telling them that simply by the fact he has stopped he is probably disappointing them. By the third line the poet uses a declarative sentence and consequently affirms to the reader that, “this is a third disappointment.”

The expectation is that it becomes clear to the reader that he intends to let them down. One of the key characteristics of self-reflexive poetry that it deliberately plans to reflect on the reader-poet relationship and employs a constant exploitation and repartee with the reader. The objective of the poet is to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that the poem is reflective of a meta-poet theme. In this case “disappointments.”

This is significant because as a farce not only is the poet disappointed, the poet has also elicited a sense disappointment in the reader as well. There is a reaction on the readers part from this spontaneous effect, hence it is termed “self-reflexive.”


Perhaps I disappointed you: On a Mete-poetic poem:

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