Poem 30 Editing: Second Person

This is a conversation I have with myself every once in a while that I thought would be good to share with you all.

aPoem 30

Second Person, what the hell are we supposed to do with that?

So my most common issue is when it’s best to use second person. I mean, there’s a reason that teachers brush over it in early writing classes (my mother had no idea what it was). Second person, or the use of you as the subject has long been an issue of mine. I love using it, and often I need to remove it from work because it is too aggressive. So for this post I want to make a little list about the pros and cons, and why it was actually better to add it into this poem:

Cons –

It’s aggressive maybe people don’t agree with or want to be part of that piece of writing

It accuses reader of doing or believing in the dogma of the piece

It limits the action to what the reader sees and knows of themselves, since they are subject

People don’t know how to deal with or edit for a subject that has fewer rules than the first or second persons’ that we are more familiar with


Pros –

Sets up a duality between the speaker and the reader, like a conversation or a monologue on stage

Makes the reader feel more present & involved, it is them after all

It feels more familiar like a party we are all going to, even you!

It cuts the character list by removing the need to introduce some random person, it’s already you, so now there can be more content.


Those aside (and I’m sure there are more for each list) I love using you. It feels present and pressing and casual. It makes the writing flow and gives me the room to make the conversation about us (the reader and I) rather than some third party person the reader may or may not get involved with.

For this poem the you was a natural change. The fever is already there, and the personal conflict felt more raw when it was a person, not just some body, and when that person was right here and now.


Second person is an amazing tool few feel comfortable using. With some pros and cons, the use of you as a subject instead of a third party or a first person, me, makes the poems more real and often more fun to read.

 Poem 30 Revised Poem 30 Editing

Poem 72 Editing

Poem 72 and everyone’s invited.

I talked about this issue a while back, I think it was pretty far in the beginning. There are often times when the second person is a good idea, a shock value kind of sober-up moment when the reader becomes involved personally. It can empower the voice to gather greater momentum, give agancy to the moment in a tangible way. So there’s that.

In this poem, the second person is a throw away. This poem is a little flippy floppy anyway, but to have the moment saved by this gymic is a little telling. There are too many people in this poem. A real life voice in crisis, a person from whom they are borrowing, a perverbial and maybe royal we, a past tense I and a we to follow implying a second party separate from the borrowee, and finally a second person you (maybe we in singular? maybe the reader?) that will be on the other side. It’s a party really.

There are too many items to keep track of. I read once that the reader of any piece has a harder time keeping up with the story if there are more and more people they have to pick up. And that there are ways to have lots and lots of characters and still be readible if the writer makes it clear that they are moving and stopping in relation to each other in a way that puts the reader’s mind off the hook. Maybe that’s true. Probably not, some standardized testing crap they fed us I’m sure (who is they, damn another person to bother about).

Whether that character theory is true or not, it makes sense. If you have 100,000 moving parts the main focus of the poem can easily loose traction. It’s a lot to keep track of. Even in a poem with just a few, there are opportunities for confusion. If confusion is your point, of course, by all means move forward! But if you are going for something else remember to always keep an eye on the room capacity. If your poem only has room for five, keep it that way. If your poem only has space for two, let’s not suprise them with a three-some.


This poem is iffy at best. Even in the revision, it’s still looking for some sea legs (no fish puns intended of course). But if you are worried about bigger issues, and don’t know where to get started, it’s goot to have a bit of a roll call. If there are lots of unaccounted-for subjects, people in vague tenses or first and third and second person references with no rhyme or reason it might be time to clear the room. There’s no reason to have a rager in your peom, leave that for your Friday night. Haha

Poem 72 RevisedPoem 72 Original