Are You An Introvert or An Extrovert–In Your Poetry?

I’ve read José Angel Araguz for what is now many years–and his essay below asks a fascinating question. Emily Dickinson would be the classic introvert, particularly compared to Walt Whitman. But what about you and me? I’m a sociable introvert. But I think my poetry is usually extroverted. Fun to think about.

What’s Poetry Got to Do With It?: Introversion/Extraversion

musings by José Angel Araguz

Episode 7: Introversion/Extraversion

In this episode I explore ways that the terms introversion and extraversion can be used as a lens with which to read poems.
The Introvert/Extravert Lens
The terms introversion and extraversion were first significantly put into use by Carl Jung and later popularized by personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator. From there, popular culture has redefined the terms over time. In general, an introvert is someone who is more reserved and leans toward solitary behavior, while an extravert is seen as someone who is outgoing, talkative, and energetic. As with any set of categories, the terms are not strict; rather, it is best to consider them as making up two sides of a spectrum on which everyone exists leaning one way or another to varying degrees.
One of the things that helped clear this up for me was seeing how the terms played out in regards to recharging one’s energy. If at the end of the week, you look forward to going out and socializing, and actually come back from said outing recharged, you might be an extravert. Conversely, if you go out on the same outing and come back exhausted, no more recharged than when you started, you might be an introvert. Seeing my introverted tendencies as me meeting my needs (and not necessarily my being antisocial) did worlds for my understanding of myself as an introvert. It also helped me empathize with my more extraverted friends and see them as meeting their own needs as well.
For further clarification (and fun!), Buzzfeed has several quizzes and lists that can help you find out if you are more introverted or extroverted.
Inner & Outer Worlds
To return to Jung, his original concept of the terms had him regarding people as either focused on their inner worlds and thoughts (introverts) at the expense of losing touch with their surroundings, or focused on the external world and being active in it (extraverts) at the expense of losing touch with themselves.
One poet whose work reflects the complexity of the introvert-extravert/inner-outer world spectrum is Emily Dickinson. Due to having lived a life of isolation, Dickinson is often written off as an introvert. Lines like the following would in fact help make the case:
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The draw of these lines is how they take concrete things (brain, sky) and push them for the abstract meanings they imply. While on the surface the poem appears to be making a case for mind over matter, so to speak, a deeper reading shows something more akin to mind within matter. In one stanza, Dickinson does the poetic equivalent of pulling apart two strong magnets to show what lives between them.
In another poem, Dickinson does a reversal of these moves:
A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flask of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—a caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!
Here, the poem travels from the abstract act of naming physical things to the speaker announcing/becoming a rose. A sign of the transformation begins early in the second line in the form of sound, specifically the “z” sound (summer’s, breeze, trees, rose). As the poem develops, this sound travels parallel to the transformation implied in the words, and becomes its own physical presence, especially if read aloud.
In these two poems, one can see how the inner and outer world engage and impel one another, never cancelling each other out. In a similar way, one’s introversion never cancels out extraverted tendencies and needs.
Final Thoughts
Usually my introverted tendencies would have me continue with examples, ruminating over other poems and unpacking what I find there. I am going to push myself to look outward, however, and invite readers to share their thoughts in the comments regarding introversion and extraversion. I also encourage you to, in your writing, push past whatever type you see yourself leaning towards. If you write mainly about inner impressions, take a walk or describe the physical world around you. If you write mainly about the physical world, start with rhetoric or abstract thought. In either case, you might find yourself reflecting your true nature in a new and surprising way.


Beethoven’s Tempest: Poem by Miriam Sagan

pianist in red
plays Beethoven’s “The Tempest”
there is sheet music
sometimes you’re driving at night
in fog,
not remembering the rule
about high beams,
the child in the forest
but who left us
and why did they lie
about how breadcrumbs
are permanent as pebbles?
you say you are just an hour
outside of Clayton, New Mexico
and will be home
before I am,
something is missing—
my mother’s memories
my fake pearl earring
the fondness I should have
but like an ellipse
what is gone
crescent moon
as if the sky
were a flag
and the polluted harbor
floated with stars

To read more–

Hot Springs, Arkansas Poem by Miriam Sagan

I went out
to look for fireflies
but lanterns
lit the ramada
too brightly;
a beautiful large white cat
with pinkish eyes
and piratical black patches
caressed my hand
with his head
and sat patiently
waiting even after
I’d closed the door;
the moon, too, was up
above the tower
of stone
with a slate roof
and someone
had lit that window
with a red light;
I see your naked back
as you sit at the desk
and tell me
this hot springs town
has everything I love
except the sea

Poetry Month #15: Bad, Bad Bodhisatva by Elizabeth Jacobson

Bad, Bad Bodhisatva

Even though I vowed not to kill
I kill upward of 30 key lime green caterpillars
that are eating my hibiscus hedge down to sticks.
This last one, before I stopped
paused its eating,
lifted its mouth,
and turned its head toward the pressure of the scissors
as I was about to snip it in half.
I saw that it saw me
or felt me
or knew that I was about to harm it,
but I killed it,
ashamed of my human nature
as it leads me,
into the snare.



This poem is forthcoming in the Santa Fe Literary Review, fall 2017

Poetry Month #10: I Hadn’t Written Any Poetry in Six Months by Miriam Sagan

I hadn’t written any poetry in about six months, not since a creative outpouring at Wildacres residency. I didn’t notice at first, because I was so absorbed in juggling three book length projects: Bluebeard’s Castle (memoir, now a complete draft), 100 Cups of Coffee (prose and poetic musing, now about 25% underway), and The Future Tense of River (utopian feminist speculative novel which was inching its way from being a series of flash fictions to a full novel–the first 100 pages is drafted). I was completely absorbed, even a little panic-y. But then all three projects went from formless to partially complete.

Suddenly I noticed I wasn’t writing poetry, apart from haiku. I wondered if I could still do it. I started writing a bunch of short very off the cuff pieces, sometimes in the middle of the night. Five of them are published at and I’m copying a few below. Enjoy!

the house contains an ocean
living room furniture is islands
and even at low tide I have to wade
ankle deep
just to make myself
a cup of coffee

Our Lady of the Star,
small painted church,
names of the dead
hum with the sound of the sea
like a giant shell—
and the gravestones tilted
carved with mossy dates
ring like tossing buoys…

the angel landed
and clapped both hands
in front of my open eyes—
somewhere, deep in my body
the genome
stood up and started walking


Poem by Miriam Sagan

I saw this on waking…

a clearing in the dream thicket
deciduous woods, like childhood
wherever that was, and snow ankle deep

goose girl, you’ve run again
from those who would rape and starve you
with a pocket full of berries

or Red Riding Hood, you put on your hat
the silly mittens
with every finger knit a different color

and finally the hoodie
the color of what is supposed to stay inside but
doesn’t always comply—blood, rage, a desire

to put yourself first
to not bring the basket of delicacies
to the demented grandmother

who asks repeatedly
is that for me?
and—where are my car keys?

better to sit and drink the wine yourself
as if there were no wolf
because maybe there isn’t

and to walk
in the opposite direction
of what you were told to.

Response To Miriam Sagan’s “I’m Not Trying To Save The World”by Angelee Deodhar

In today’s world, I screen myself from news that, with its sensationalism, tells me what to worry about, what to fear, what to hate. I don’t want to be directed to outrage at the atrocious or told why I should or should not be upset about something.
I don’t know about other people, but for me compassion is engendered through specifics. And I also refuse to be upset and outraged all the time. There is no particular rationale for this—I’m not trying to save the world, or myself. I’m just maintaining a modicum of freedom.
                                                                                                  –   Miriam Sagan


‘Paris unlocked’ :officials are removing the ‘love locks ‘on the sides of the Pont des Arts bridge.
I wonder what happened to the key we tossed into the Seine ,after locking our love to the iron work, so long ago, five decades was it? I still have the other one…

Sixties music
once again in candlelight
cheek to cheek

And today in Paris,many  lovers’ dreams lie shattered in a senseless attack, unleashing fear, confusion suspicion and sadness in its wake.

pre-dawn lightening
the muezzin’s call softer
this autumn
                                                                   walking meditation
                                                                on the I-pod La Marseillaise
                                                                diminished by birdsong