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There are some who claim that poetry—especially when it includes the pronoun “I”—is by definition autobiographical. If this claim had legs, it would mean that I’d somehow visited ancient Greece, which I haven’t; that I have a daughter, which I don’t; that I‘m capable of playing a scratch game of golf, which I’m not; and that I live in a tree—which I sometimes wish I did, but don’t. But when a poem is indeed autobiography, and undeniably so, it becomes a poet’s job to show readers why it’s worthy of their time and attention. It might, in fact, be a wise move to put your own sentiments and attachments aside for a moment and ask yourself the following: 1). Why is this memory still important to me? 2). Have I made that reason relatively clear? 3). Have I limited myself to the details that will engage my readers? For more on this complicated subject, I highly recommend a book on the poetry of memory titled After Confession, edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham. It includes some thought-provoking and very readable essays on autobiography by prominent poets.

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