The speaker in poetry is the voice behind the poem—the person we picture reciting the thing out loud. It's worth noting that the speaker is not the poet. Even though the poetry is autobiographical, the speaker should be treated as a fictitious invention since the writer chooses what to express about himself.
In "The Doe" by Edward Dowden, the speaker is a woman looking back on a life of solitude. She was beautiful, rich, and popular until she gave up socializing for religious reasons. Now an old maid, she spends her time writing poems about animals and humans alike who are just like her once upon a time. Although she isn't lonely anymore, the speaker remembers how it used to hurt when people ignored her or worse. She also recalls how much she loved when someone loved her back.
The speaker is characterized by feelings of loss and longing, so it makes sense that many of her poems focus on this subject. She also feels guilty for no reason whatsoever except that she is a poet and poets feel guilty about everything.
People often compare the speaker to Tennyson's Lady of Shalott because they both write about lost loves. But there's more to them than that. The Lady of Shalott cuts herself off from the world in order to write poems, but the speaker continues living her life even though she writes poems all the time.
Poetry, like fiction, has a speaker—someone who serves as the poem's voice. The poet is frequently the speaker. At times, the speaker can adopt a persona—the voice of someone else, including animals and inanimate things. One example of a poetic drama is Shakespeare's Hamlet, which features a narrator who speaks most of the speeches.
There are also poems that are "monological" or speak directly to one person. These often include letters and journals, but they may also be found in more informal texts such as diaries. Modern examples include John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and Anne Carson's "The Sense of Movement".
Finally, some poems have speakers of several lines or stanzas. These often occur in long poems where each section has its own speaker. For example, Emily Dickinson's poem "Because to Nothingness All Things Come" consists entirely of sentences of three lines with different speakers at the beginning of each line. There are many more examples, so this is only a sampling.
These are just some of the many types of poetry. There are many others, including sonnets, sestets, villanelles, fables, epigrams, apostrophes, hymns, etc.
The poem, like fiction, is written from a definite point of view. The first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) gives the reader access to the thoughts and feelings of one particular character. We learn about her/his desires, fears, hopes, and concerns through this person's eyes and ears.
Who is the audience for the poem? What do they need to know or feel?
Poetry is meant to be read, not just heard. Therefore, it must contain some level of complexity in order to be understood by an audience composed of both children and adults. Poets aim to evoke certain emotions in their audiences - joy, sadness, fear, anger - and guide them through a narrative that develops over time.
Unlike in prose where everything must be stated explicitly, poets have more freedom in how they convey information. They can use imagery, allusion, and other techniques to suggest things about the subject that cannot be said directly. For example, when discussing love, a poet might use the image of a rose to indicate that what is being described is beautiful but impossible to fully understand.
Every poetry has a voice, which may be referred to as a speaker (or, in some cases, speakers, if there is more than one person speaking the poem). Generally, poems with more than one speaker are identified by numbering the speakers (e.g., "I" and "II" for a sequence of poems). However, poets may choose not to identify their speakers or may use other techniques for identifying multiple voices within a single poem.
Poems with more than one speaker can also be classified according to the type of speech given by each speaker. If one speaker gives voice only to thoughts or ideas, he or she will be considered an "icist." A poet who uses both thought and expression (i.e., grammar) to convey his or her ideas is called a "parataxist." Finally, a poet who uses both thought and expression to convey his or her ideas while simultaneously addressing another speaker directly through the use of "you" will be called a "synoptist."
The ability to describe different types of speech is important when reading poems with more than one speaker because it allows readers to understand what kind of language was used by each speaker. For example, if one speaker uses colloquial language while another uses formal language, the meaning of the poem could be altered depending on which speaker is being discussed.
To identify the speaker, the reader or listener must do more than simply hear the poem's voice. Other characteristics of the poetry, such as the context, structure, descriptive details, metaphorical language, and rhythms, should be examined to assist ascertain the speaker's identity. For example, if the poem is written in first person present tense with descriptions of scenery and weather, then it is likely that the speaker is a male living in the past or present who shares these same interests.
Poems are often attributed to people because they want to share a point of view on an issue or experience life from a particular perspective. So, although poems may not tell actual stories, they can still be linked to individuals through their voices. The speaker of a poem can be anyone involved in its creation, including the author, compiler, editor, or proofreader. Sometimes multiple people will work on one poem, only hand-picking words and phrases to fit with the rest of the poem. In other cases, the poet may have had no part in choosing what was included in the final version; instead, the editors or compiler decided what parts would best express the meaning they wanted to get across.
Often, readers will know how the poem's speaker feels about something mentioned in the poem. For example, if the poem is about someone who loves flowers, then it is likely that the speaker enjoys seeing them around him or her.