Why is it so essential to find out who the speaker is in a poem? Introduction to English literature.

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First, I think it is important in poetry NOT to assume the poet is the speaker.  Just as in a novel the author is not necessarily the narrator, poetry can be told from any perspective.  Perhaps the reason it is more emphasized is due to the brevity of most poems...

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First, I think it is important in poetry NOT to assume the poet is the speaker.  Just as in a novel the author is not necessarily the narrator, poetry can be told from any perspective.  Perhaps the reason it is more emphasized is due to the brevity of most poems and their lack of typical narrative elements.  Even narrative poetry as compared to a novel is going to leave a lot out.  Many readers tend to default to the author and speaker being one and the same as it is often the easiest.

Important aspects of the speaking voice: I think it depends on the poem.  The basics I like to run most poems through are are male/female, age, cultural background (if present), experience (if present), and overall feeling.  Again, beware of putting a picture of the author in any of these.  Often there is not one correct answer to any of these criteria, but by choosing, it at least gives you a narrower scope through which to analyze the poem.  At the very least, ask how YOU connect with the ideas in the poem, then put the speaker through a comparison of yourself.  Do you tend to agree with him or her?  Have you had similar thoughts/ideas/feelings/experiences?

It is always interesting when two people read and adequately defend two completely opposite ideas for who the speaker might be.  I hope this at least gives you a place to start.

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