Self Is: Tuesday Tryouts

22 May

8:11 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello! I just spent an hour writing a discourse on self and realised that there was no way I could then ask you to attempt a prompt. Too many things I am asking you to think about and consider. Also, that would make the post the longest I have ever written. Instead, I will give you an opening prompt focused on self and what you think it is, in the abstract, rather than personal. On Thursday, no announcements, but, instead, the discourse.

Good, I feel better. I was worrying about length and your poor brains. The following is a collection of statements about self. They range from the philosophical to the provocative. Choose one and jot notes on, or freewrite, your agreement, or disagreement, with the attitude taken. Or, link several.  Remembering that form = content, decide on the format that suits the point of view you are advocating and write a poem. You may refer to the statement[s], but, in most cases, it would intrude. You are using them as a springboard.

I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that I know? (Descartes, 1641) Or,
I think, therefore I am. (Descartes)

The soul, so far as we can conceive it, is nothing but a system or train of different perceptions. (Hume, 1739)

What was I before I came to self-consciousness?… I did not exist at all, for I was not an I. The I exists only insofar as it is conscious of itself… The self posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it exists. (Fichte, 1794–5)

The ‘Self’’… , when carefully examined, is found to consist mainly of… peculiar motions in the head or between the head and throat. (James, 1890)

The ego continuously constitutes itself as existing. (Husserl, 1929)

Any fixed categorization of the Self is a big goof. (Ginsberg, 1963)

The self which is reflexively referred to is synthesized in that very act of reflexive self-reference. (Nozick, 1981)

The self… is a mythical entity… It is a philosophical muddle to allow the space which differentiates ‘my self’ from ‘myself’ to generate the illusion of a mysterious entity distinct from… the human being. (Kenny, 1988)

A self… is… an abstraction… , [a] center of narrative gravity. (Dennett, 1991)

My body is an object all right, but my self jolly well is not! (Farrell, 1996)

An actor’s instrument is the self. [[Joan Juliet Buck]

The easiest person to deceive is one’s own self. [Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873) The Disowned. Chap. xlii.]

“When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said, ‘To know one’s self.’ And what was easy, ‘To advise another.’” [Diogenes Laërtius (fl. early 3d cent.) Thales. ix.]

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou can not then be false to any man.
[William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Hamlet Act i. Sc. 3.]

To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one’s sister and a stranger in a pink hat seen once and admired on the corner of 55th and Madison—as well as oneself, mysteriously improved. [Joan Didion “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?” Vogue Jun 61]

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates. [Thomas Szasz The Second Sin Doubleday 73]

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. [Margot Fonteyn Margot Fonteyn Knopf 76]

Wait for those unguarded moments. Relax the mood and, like the child dropping off to sleep, the subject often reveals his truest self. [‘Barbara Walters On interviewing,’ Christian Science Monitor 10 Dec 79]

[There is a need] to discover that we are capable of solitary joy and having experienced it, know that we have touched the core of self. [Barbara Lazear Ascher Playing after Dark Doubleday 86]

The tension between “yes” and “no,” between “I can” and “I cannot,” makes us feel that, in so many instances, human life is an interminable debate with one’s self. [Anatole Broyard NY Times 13 Jan 76]

It is true that the poet does not directly address his neighbors; but he does address a great congress of persons who dwell at the back of his mind, a congress of all those who have taught him and whom he has admired; they constitute his ideal audience and his better self. [Richard Wilbur, ‘Accepting National Book Award,’ NY Herald Tribune 24 Mar 57]

To “know thyself” must mean to know the malignancy of one’s own instincts and to know, as well, one’s power to deflect it. [Dr Karl A Menninger Vogue Jun 61]

Come back and post a link to your poem. I suspect these will be fun to read. Have fun with what you write and how you write it.

I shall see you Thursday for a discourse; Friday for the roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday is an image prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 22/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

91 responses to “Self Is: Tuesday Tryouts

  1. cloudfactor5

    22/05/2012 at 9:35 am

    100 % SELF

    self absorbed in self-abasement
    self critical in self-effacement
    self centered egotistical son of a bitch
    self imposed self-seeking guardian of rich
    self employed self-image self esteem
    self appointed self love self-supreme
    self-conscious self-contained self-confidence
    self styled self-preservation self defense
    self righteous self respect self vindication
    self revealing self portrait self admiration

    ~ Randy Bell ~

    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 10:17 am

      OMG… and you rhymed. Randy, you must have been chuckling with glee, as you wrote. I loved following the order of the selves. I can’t believe you managed a story on top of everything. With so many selves to contend with, it’s a wonder anyone is happy with self.

      Love your photo of self 🙂


      • cloudfactor5

        22/05/2012 at 10:52 am

        Thanks Margo, but like Mark said it was a bit self-ish!

    • markwindham

      22/05/2012 at 10:36 am

      seems a bit … self-ish 🙂


    • purplepeninportland

      22/05/2012 at 4:47 pm

      Were you ever diagnosed with multiple personality disorder? Unbelievable poem.

      • cloudfactor5

        22/05/2012 at 4:50 pm

        Sara I’m a gemini, each twin has a twin, lol

    • vivinfrance

      24/05/2012 at 3:17 am

      Wow, you’ve said it all, and so well!

      • cloudfactor5

        24/05/2012 at 6:35 am

        Thank You Viv, and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your interview on Poetic Bloomings !!! As a musician I think your “Tinnitus” expresses my fear!
        Thank You for sharing your poems,loved the view!!

        • vivinfrance

          24/05/2012 at 7:54 am

          Thank you. Cloudfactor. I enjoyed doing it.

    • Annette Mickelson

      25/05/2012 at 5:37 pm

      What fun to read! Great write –

  2. markwindham

    22/05/2012 at 10:34 am

    older fun responses to above quotes, then I will get serious. Although i think Randy may have covered the first one already.
    Be true, sounds easy

    dear William, but first one must

    clearly define self.
    I think, therefore,
    that Descartes was mistaken,
    his prerequisite too poorly defined,
    leaving more questions than answers.
    Our thoughts often
    being a poor commentary on existence,
    creating a reality I would just as soon refuse.

    Should not logic and philosophy also dictate
    that the converse of this supposition be true;
    a being that exist must therefore think?
    An arguable statement to be sure,
    for there are observed a lot… that do not.
    I think, therefore,
    Rene to be wrong.

    😉 Happy Tuesday!

    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 10:43 am

      Okay, okay, why are we posting in comments, when these are ‘unpersonal’ poems? However, I am glad you are having fun.

      Mark, I like the self-ish 😉 And that you are having fun. I am curious about serious.

  3. Mary

    22/05/2012 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Margo, so are we all to link on Thursday? I am a bit confused. Or are just you indicating you will share your discourse on Thursday? I know this will take me a bit of time to do.

    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 1:34 pm

      Hi Mary. Link to today. It doesn’t matter when, even two months down the road!. Although, there is no reason you can’t link to Thursday, as well. That we make sure you are read!

      Yes, I am sharing my discourse on Thursday. It may lead to one of our long discussions.

    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 3:44 pm

      I’m heading over, Barbara. Do you have any idea why WordPress has decided comments from you need moderation?

      • barbara_

        22/05/2012 at 7:24 pm

        Yep. I moved my blog email address, and upset all the connections between WP, Gravitar, Gmail, facebook, and half the apps on my ipad. It’s what happens when I try to simplify

        • margo roby

          22/05/2012 at 9:02 pm

          Well, there’s a lesson for the rest of us, Barbara. Good luck tracking everything.

        • Shawna

          24/05/2012 at 12:32 pm

          The same thing happened to me; it has been infuriating.

  4. purplepeninportland

    22/05/2012 at 4:45 pm

    At first read, I didn’t think I could write anything on this elusive topic. Of course, I had to try and I did.

    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 5:18 pm

      Sarah, I am glad you found something!

  5. wordsandthoughtspjs

    22/05/2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Margo, this looks like fun. I have copied down one of the quotes, which I will carry in my journal this week, adding to it as I go along. This is a bear of a week, the kids are anxious to get off for vacation, (they are making me crazy!), and one of our teachers is out all week. So, that means I have one of her groups (no time to breathe). *sigh*


    • margo roby

      22/05/2012 at 9:03 pm

      I like that, Pamela, carrying around a quote and jotting notes over several days.

      Vacation is going to be that much sweeter 🙂


    • barbara_

      24/05/2012 at 8:59 am

      You can handle it. After all: It’s always darkest just before you curse the candle. or something. Wine goes well with a breakdown

  6. Hannah Gosselin

    22/05/2012 at 10:00 pm

    Here’s my what I was thinking about. I’m not sure if it’s what you were expecting though…:)

    Thank you, for this thought provoking prompt, Margo!! Big smiles!

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 7:29 am

      Hannah, I never set expectations to what I will get from you all 🙂 Well, the expectation that I will thoroughly enjoy the results…

      • Hannah Gosselin

        23/05/2012 at 7:34 am

        I know you don’t, Margo, but somehow (old school days way of thought), it is me that feels a pull toward a “this is a right or wrong response.”

        Thank you, Margo, for telling me though…it is nice to hear even when I know that’s how you roll!!

        Smiles and a great day to you!! 🙂

  7. tmhHoover

    22/05/2012 at 11:33 pm

    Trickery – a prompt without a format. You have left me no excuse for not participating this week. Here is a 3 line poem and an image. It’s a start…

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 7:30 am

      I knew it! Teri, look for more of the same 🙂

  8. julespaige

    23/05/2012 at 9:58 am

    “To thine own self be true…” While this was written for another prompt, it fits. Well at least the last line. I had a very, very bad day. But it gave me just the push I needed to quit my job. I handed in my two week notice today. Now I’ll be able to ‘work’ for my son. And watching Son of Son which has so many more benefits!

    Back to read others a bit later. Thanks for the ‘vent’ space.

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 10:03 am

      Jules, My vent space is your vent space.

      You must feel as if you have dropped twenty pounds. Nothing is worth staying in misery. I will be glad when you return to your joyful self.


    • tmhHoover

      23/05/2012 at 3:25 pm

      Oh Jules!!! I had a feeling that was coming. I imagine you will feel a great weight lifted!!Margo you are so sweet to have venting space!!

  9. Mary

    23/05/2012 at 10:09 am

    Well, I took this a bit seriously; and this is what I came up with:

    That was quite a challenge.

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 1:26 pm

      And I thought this was a light-ish prompt, Mary! Although, I guess the thinking involved with the quotes does add a challenge.

      • Mary

        23/05/2012 at 1:35 pm

        You really thought it was light prompt???? Oops!

        • margo roby

          23/05/2012 at 1:40 pm

          Mary, when I think about it I was thinking in terms of it not having to be that personal for you all. One can address the quotes impartially as an exercise on something you agree or disagree with. I wasn’t thinking about all the thinking you would have to do!

          Maybe, this will cause such palpitations, no one will notice prompts that are getting more personal!

    • tmhHoover

      23/05/2012 at 3:34 pm

      Mary- as I just said over at your place-“I like how you found yourself between limitations and freedom.Layers of moments well seen.”

  10. markwindham

    23/05/2012 at 1:07 pm

    You know the drill…Is it or is it not….?

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 1:27 pm

      What? A poem? Alright, alright, Mark. I’m heading over 🙂

      • markwindham

        23/05/2012 at 1:29 pm

        oh no. Its a poem if I say it is a poem. 😀 I was referring to whether it was in the realm of fitting the prompt.

        • margo roby

          23/05/2012 at 1:40 pm

          Of course, and that’s without seeing it. Having seen it, Yes.

    • tmhHoover

      23/05/2012 at 3:40 pm

      Mark– I feel like Margo has left us out here with just a wimpy little life jacket. (no offense Margo 🙂 ) I can hardly wait to see what Thursday looks like. I think it was a good idea to establish where you were in that first stanza-but I really liked the last two.

      • margo roby

        23/05/2012 at 3:50 pm

        Teri: How else are you going to swim the channel… heh heh 🙂

  11. tmhHoover

    23/05/2012 at 4:01 pm

    Here I am being selfish and taking over your comment section. But I thought you should know I wrote another discourse on self while walking my dog today…(I sent it via my phone to myself… kind of apropos)

    • margo roby

      23/05/2012 at 5:40 pm

      Not ever a problem, Teri. I like the conversations and have had some long ones 🙂 I love that you wrote the poem while walking the dog. Heading over now to read.

  12. Veronica Roth

    23/05/2012 at 9:32 pm

    Here’s a try at some kind of existentialism Margo:


    is a sparrow
    caught in a net

    who madly whirls
    and strives to escape

    but the more he flutters
    the more he tangles

    if a chance peck
    unravels the mesh

    who saves himself
    who will live

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 7:37 am

      Veronica, I enjoyed the existentialism! I am studying your line breaks, since your suggestions with the wordle poem, worked so beautifully. I’m already starting to see my own line breaks differently.

      • Veronica Roth

        24/05/2012 at 10:25 am

        Thank you Margo, during my CMNS degree I gad a tough English prof who drilled line breaks! It’s interesting how the mood of a piece can change thru those. isn’t it?

        • margo roby

          24/05/2012 at 10:26 am

          Absolutely. I had to learn pretty much on my own, so am still learning.Give me your take anytime. It will be much appreciated.

  13. barbara_

    24/05/2012 at 12:49 am

    A little bit silly

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 8:09 am

      Silly is good, Barbara. Silly is healthy.

  14. vivinfrance

    24/05/2012 at 3:16 am

    Phew! I got there in the end, even if it’s not what I set out to write . Now I have to go back and read the others.

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 8:11 am

      ViV, I’m doing this backward. I usually reply here first! I continue to be fascinated with the poems I write, that my mind takes in a different direction from the part of the mind that thought it had a direction.

  15. whimsygizmo

    24/05/2012 at 10:08 am

    Catching up. Mine’s here:

    Hope to get to today’s prompt/fuller thoughts soon. 🙂

  16. Irene

    24/05/2012 at 10:25 am

    A poetic discourse on self.

    the self casts a shadow

  17. Joseph Harker

    24/05/2012 at 11:22 am

    Possibly the proudest I’ve been of a poem in a while: Thursday Morning

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 11:26 am

      Good God, you make me proud to have given the prompt, because it must be one hell of a poem. I am coming, no, racing, over.

      • Joseph Harker

        24/05/2012 at 11:27 am

        *bated breath!*

        WordPress is letting me know when comments and replies appear live now. A welcome surprise, this time.

        • margo roby

          24/05/2012 at 11:44 am

          Just don’t hold your breath 😉

          I want them to do well, however. I do like it here.

  18. Shawna

    24/05/2012 at 12:33 pm

    There are so many comments; it’s hard to find the poems. 🙂

    Here’s my contribution:

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 1:20 pm

      Shawna, my posts often become that way ‘=), but I’m not ready for a Mr. Linky = a whole different atmosphere.

      • Shawna

        24/05/2012 at 1:24 pm

        I understand; the crazy comments section is often the best part. 🙂

        I plucked out all the links and am just finished up the last three.

        • margo roby

          25/05/2012 at 2:36 pm

          I wonder what it is about you. You were swanning around the spam again. If I am late responding to you, that will be why. I check spam erratically. Feel free to email if you don’t hear from me in a while. I’m trying to check more regularly 🙂

          • Shawna

            25/05/2012 at 4:17 pm

            I am a chronic misreader. I read “I check spam erratically” as “I check spam erotically.” That is an entirely different meaning, isn’t it?

  19. margo roby

    24/05/2012 at 1:21 pm

    What do you suppose… ‘=)

    I meant 🙂

  20. Tania

    25/05/2012 at 12:48 pm

    I didn’t think I was going to write for this, but I have something to offer, in the way of describing myself.

    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 12:53 pm

      Tania, this prompt seems to have caught a couple of people that way. I’ll hear your way shortly.

  21. Annette Mickelson

    25/05/2012 at 5:42 pm

    I played quite awhile with this prompt. I couldn’t quite decide what direction I wanted to go. hmmm, maybe that says something about my self…

    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 5:49 pm

      Annette, That has been an interesting factor with this prompt. People seem to have gone everywhere but where they thought they had started for. I’m on my way over.

  22. wordsandthoughtspjs

    25/05/2012 at 8:44 pm

    Margo, I had fun with this even after a perplexing and somewhat exhausting week. I carried the quote in my journal, and wrote when I could. Here is the result …



    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 8:47 pm

      I’m heading over, Pamela.


    • wordsandthoughtspjs

      25/05/2012 at 8:48 pm

      Ha ha ha! That is not the “title”, but it does send you to the poem. I am experiencing some puter problems.

  23. brenda w

    25/05/2012 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you for this interesting prompt, Margo. I’ll be moving to Ohio within the next two years, and may or may not work when we move….or may just substitute teach. If I have the time, I’d love to read books with you. Your sources for self are excellent, and it is something I’ve pondered my entire life. Eventually, my life will give me time. This prompt is excellent. I enjoyed your post…all the quotes. Thank you thank you. While I’m a bit late, here’s what I came up with:

    I’d be interested in your discourse on self. School’s almost over…summer school is half days. Time will open for me. 🙂

    • margo roby

      26/05/2012 at 7:41 am

      Brenda, I got the poem first [there is no late, just at a different time :-)], in my email, and loved it. I’ll reread in a minute. Our closest friends live in Ohio. It will be nice to have someone else I know there and wonderful to have it be you [especially a retired, or part-time, you!]. At the time you move, we will probably be heading to San Antonio, our final home. Re more time, when you don’t work full-time: my mother says, Don’t hold your breath 🙂 She’s right. I am busier in retirement than teaching high school English [and I don’t leave the house!]. But it’s good, as I can say, Stop! and stop.

      Go Montana. I was so excited that their sherpa was the first person of the season to summit, and the team made a day ago. I am so glad to have had that brief experience.


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