Letters – Issue 57

Lauris Edmond’s “false voice”

In her review of my Kin of Place (October 2002 issue), Elizabeth Webby comments: “His reading [of Lauris Edmond’s “The Lecture”] depends entirely on the assumption that the “I” of the poem is Lauris Edmond herself and that she is attempting to give a truthful account of personal experience … But what if the author of the poem had really been a man?”

The answer is that it would have made no difference at all. The “false voice” I detect in the poem would still have been false.

This is so obvious I wonder whether Webby meant to ask: “What if the persona had been a man?” It is, of course, always possible for a poem to speak in a voice distinct from the poet’s – but only when the distinction is clearly signalled, and in “The Lecture” no such signal exists. Such a reading would be like arguing that William McGonagall was not the clumsy dullard who speaks in his own lines but in fact a clever, witty, and entertaining fellow who wrote badly in order to amuse.

CK Stead

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