Margo Roby at gave us a collection of statements about self. They range from the philosophical to the provocative.  She suggested that we freewrite on one or several.  I wanted to work on “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]”  – I have believed all my life that I can do or be anything I set my mind to, but perhaps it’s where we set our minds that is the limitation. 

Then my undisciplined self read Mark Wyndham’s political essay-cum-poem  at and went off at a tangent.

Self – a freewrite

Selfishness is such a sin—
Devil take the hindmost,
I’m up here, Jack, I’m OK.
You can pull the ladder in.

Self is an internal prison—
we need to look outside,
empathise with other selves
not criticise them or deride.

We can only truly know
the self that we inhabit—
a lifetime study necessary
to shed the self-straitjacket.

Inevitable self-absorption
in crisis, illness or in trouble
should make us try to understand,
the woes of others, burst the bubble

that surrounds our inner selves,
solve the mystery of fellow men.
appreciate their every need
as best we can, and meet them.


All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
This entry was posted in rhyming poetry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Self

  1. brenda w says:

    A lifetime of study to shed the straight jacket… I’m working on it, Viv, I’m working on it. 🙂


  2. “Self is an internal prison”, so much truth in that, Viv. I didn’t notice the rhyme and had to go back and re-read it. Well done.



  3. Mary says:

    Someone else commented on the line about the self being an internal prison. I did some thinking about that as well. I think you are right on target when you say we have to get outside our self and empathize with others….in other words, not be too SELF centered! I enjoyed your poem, Viv.


  4. Reading backwards: this felt a bit like three poems in one. I wasn’t wild about the last two stanzas, enjoyed the middle two, and loved the first one. Two and three seem like a little philosophical ditty, but stanza one (having the same singing sound, and an unexpected twist on the rhyme scheme) has a wonderful casual quality and curious language in it. Sounds like it’s plucked from a work song or something.


  5. Shawna says:

    So much truth here, Viv.

    These are my favorite lines:
    “Devil take the hindmost”
    “You can pull the ladder in”
    “Self is an internal prison”
    “to shed the self-straitjacket”


  6. Ron. says:

    Great stuff, V. I enjoyed it muchly, rhyme or no. I spend a lot of time–too much, I suppose–thinking about The Self and especially How Not To Think About The Self. Your thoughts help.

    & thanks for stopping by (so humorously) at the eggs. salute.


  7. markwindham says:

    you know I am not a fan of rhyme (probably because it is so hard for me to write effectively) but I agree with Margo on this one. It is subtle in this, in no way overbearing. The third stanza is probably my favorite concept-wise.

    And thanks for the mention! Sorry I got you off track. 🙂


  8. margo roby says:

    Thank you for the pointer to Mark’s prose/poem. I would not have wanted to miss that.
    I like your take on self as ‘an internal prison’. Shades of Blake’s ‘mind-forged manacles’. True though.
    I didn’t even notice the rhyme until I read Tilly’s comment. Even then, I had to look.


  9. Tilly Bud says:

    Excellent diatribe. However, I think it would be a stronger poem without the rhyme.


  10. Ahha! And that’s what holds us back, isn’t it Viv? The self-absorption? I like the poem/freewrite. How clever you are!


I love it when you leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s