Point of view is the perspective or viewpoint of the speaker in a poem.
As a literary device, point of view (POV) is the concentrated vantage point of the “teller” of the poem. Keeping in mind that the author is not to be assumed as the speaker or narrator of the poem, point of view is essentially the camera lens providing the best angle for the poem’s voice. The point of view informs the reader of who the speaker is, whether the work is a persona or personification poem.
Types and Examples of Point of View
First-Person Point of View: the speaker is the one narrating events, providing descriptions, and revealing the poem’s content. In storytelling or narrative poetry, the main character is the narrator. The singular first-person point of view relies on the usage of “I” (i.e., “I, Too” by Langston Hughes and “She Didn’t Even Wave” by Ai), and the plural first-person point of view relies on the usage of “we” (i.e., “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks).
Using the first-person point of view in poetry allows the author to create instant intimacy and to evoke a desired emotional bond between the speaker and reader. Regardless of form, poetry, especially within certain poetic movements (i.e., confessionalism), tends to rely on the first-person point of view because of the effect produced while using this literary device. The first-person point of view can also generate a degree of mystery and suspense if the speaker is untrustworthy, also known as an unreliable narrator in prose.
Second-Person Point of View: the speaker of a poem tells a story about “you,” or describes a series of events, actions, and scenes that include “you.” Imperative verbs–actions the speaker wants someone else to do–permeate throughout the poem and influence the poem’s tone.
This point of view is highly impactful when featured as a literary device in poetry. Although the form may vary, the second-person point of view immerses the reader in the poem’s content and is implicated in a way that holds the intimate bond between the speaker and the reader. An example of the usage of second-person in poetry is “Remember” by Joy Harjo.
Third-Person Point of View: the speaker of the poem is not actively part of the story, but is in control of delivering the details. This point of view is highly favored when it comes to storytelling because of the objectivity and distance the third-person voice provides. There are two types of third-person points of view: limited (subjective) and omniscient (objective).
The third-person limited voice can neither describe the internal landscape of any character nor be “in the know” about what the characters are thinking. Third-person omniscient is when the speaker “knows” and describes the internal world of characters while not being part of the story. Two examples of poems written in the third-person point of view are “History” by Carol Ann Duffy and “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti.