Stan Sanvel Rubin


When I was a young poet, I experimented with persona for the freedom they offer, then came to dislike them as a mode. They were, I used to think, fundamentally insincere, a way a poet could borrow significance by speaking in an historically important voice, a voice not her/his own. I wanted the significance to arise from the poem, not from a borrowed mask.

But I kept coming back to personae in recent years. Like any mode, it can be as true or false, as inventive or imaginative, as the artist. I have found that some unfinished drafts find their final voice if recast as a persona poem. I still avoid historic personae, for the most part, but I especially like cartoon or mythic characters. After all, the poet’s voice makes them real in a new way.

I still only write them from time to time, but when I do, I find the use of a persona liberating. After all, that’s all the “I” ever is, right?




Hermes in Retirement


After I stole the big one, I took off
for my estate outside the capital.
Here elephants are drenched in sunset
so red you would not wonder
if god’s heart was bleeding into it
the way a thief’s heart bleeds
when he is taken from those he loves.
But it’s too late then to regret.

Like Piaf, I regret nothing, not one
tie I severed or trick I used to pull it off. All
required ingenuity, luck, and cunning.
(The first is sure, the second
a cousin to the third.) All
satisfied an urgency of time, my need
to be alone. What keeps you flexible,
keeps you strong. Don’t worry,

I have aged into this solitude
of stealth, still ready
for action, game for anything
that comes along. All I wish
is practice, a deft plan close at hand,
new stratagems to fill the mind,
and time, so I can run, rich with hunger and
alert with fear, past all of them again.



435569-1589301-thumbnail.jpgStan Sanvel Rubin lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. His third full-length collection, Hidden Sequel, 2005 Barrow Street Book Prize winner, was published in 2006, and was a Small Press Distribution best-seller. His work appears most recently in Smartish Pace and is forthcoming in Poetry East, The Marlboro Review, Hubbub and Birmingham Poetry Review, and is included in the anthology, Long Journey: Contemporary Northwest Poets, published by Oregon State University Press. He writes essay-reviews of poetry for Water-Stone Review.