Example poetry

Typology: Lisa Martin’s personality poetry, an exercise in understanding

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In case you’re looking for a perfect little bundle of order and chaos at the same time, in Lisa Martin’s terrific new sonnet book, she dedicates a poem to each of the 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types .


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With a voice so conversational that you hardly notice his rhyming couplets, Martin brings together 16 portraits under the precise mathematical branches that Jung’s inspired personality test divides: four combinations of his four sets of binaries.

If you are unfamiliar with the test, through a series of either simple questions or poll, it determines whether you are in favor of extroversion (E) or introversion (I); feel (S) or intuition (N); to think (T) or to feel (F); judge (J) or perceive / prospect (P).

So an introverted, intuitive, and sensitive perceptor – a rare type that Martin reliably hits every time she takes the test – would be labeled INFP.

In the poem for this guy she calls God an INFP, while in ENFJ she wrote the big verse:


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Even though Christ was something else, you are the daughter of God.

Sourdough of alcohols. Walker on the water.

“Religious things are in my deep material,” says Martin, raised by religious parents who each died young from brain cancer. “This kind of slightly heretical theological thing will come out whenever I get the chance.”

One of the sites she likes, 16personalities.com , describes the INFPs as “mediators”: empathetic, speaking their truth and in search of a vocation.

It sounds like a good recipe for why someone would perform such an experiment in the first place, although there is a fun twist in Martin’s story.

As masked, performative teens jump for photos next to us on the cliff above the Dawson Bridge, she notes, “I actually wrote the whole series in the first place because I was interested in guys. Myers-Briggs.


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“So I posted online asking people, ‘What are your types? I wanted people to come forward. And someone I had a crush on posted their type, and that’s how I got the first poem.

“Sonnets,” she laughs, “they’ve always been made for courting, aren’t they? “

Typology by Lisa Martin, released April 16.
Typology by Lisa Martin, released April 16. Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia

With a symbolically faceted bird on his cover by Abhi Thambu, Martin called his resulting chapbook collection Typology.

It is published on Friday by antrutherpress.com , and you can also pick it up locally online through Glass Bookshop – which is currently working on a permanent space downtown near the museum.

She is working on how to do a proper exit without screens, explaining, “I would give anything for an uncrowded and slightly boring literary read right now.”


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Typology’s poems cover a mix of specific people and general types.

“Some of them are really like that, to a person,” she says, while others are composites that the 41-year-old found she didn’t seem to know. “Which makes sense, in a way. They might not be the type to post on social media.

For example, for ENTJ – extrovert, intuitive, thoughtful and judging: the “commander”, she wrote pure fiction.

In psychological circles, the MB test is not without its detractors, starting with its reliance on self-report until “okay, but what do we do with these?” labels, exactly? He also sets up these questionable binaries.

“It’s like you’re either intuitive or an observer. But how can you really be intuitive if you are not an observer? She asks, spring geese flying above her head. “We’re always looking for something that will give us information, you know? “


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Value could be found in meditation, pineapple candy, or live role-playing in the woods – maybe even the distant cosmos.

But, says Martin, “For me, that does it a little better than horoscopes. Since I have a twin sister who is not like me, that sort of disqualifies them.

She notes that the MB test can be reductive: “But I think I was excited about it and wrote these poems because I came to understand very late how differently we are all oriented towards the world. It was kind of a hack for me to realize that there are at least 16 guys.

A while ago Martin was trying to figure out why a friend was behaving a certain way.

“I did those kind of deep dives into her Myers-Briggs personality in order to understand why she wasn’t really an asshole,” she laughed, “she was just different from me.


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“Are we going to have a conversation one day where we agree?” Or do we need to understand each other because of the way we approach everything from opposite angles, and always will be? ” she asks. “I had to learn to let people be drastically different from me.”

This gentle approach won’t quite remind you of the peacock hissing party of the world today, but it does highlight the fact, for example, that not all breakups are the “fault” of one person or another. the other.

Sometimes it’s just a collision of acronyms.

One of his poems, ISTP, ends with Martin addressing an ex:

You just stopped holding my hand before

the grave – not that I blame you – more

Martin’s two previous books of poetry, One Crow Sorrow (2008) and Believing is not the same a Being Saved (2017) are heartbreaking at times, faced with the untimely death of his parents and an unsuccessful marriage.

“A big part of my job is that someone died, I guess I’ll write these poems about it.”

This project, which she wrote before COVID-19, “was a lot more fun.”

Notably, Martin also wrote the lyrics for Listening for What Comes Next, an original song by Jennifer McMillan, sung through black masks in an empty Jube, commissioned by the Edmonton Opera.


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Like an intelligent patient seeking a second opinion, Martin also buried himself in personaljunkie.com .

On the site, one of the psychologists notes that each of the 16 types has an underdeveloped skill that he wants to skip in the order of operations.

“For me, it’s thinking. Even though I have studied philosophy and am able to think, in terms of personal decision making, thinking is my most underdeveloped way of doing it.

She notes that her brain makes decisions more in terms of intuition and feelings.

“So now a tip for me, if I’m feeling this kind of cognitive hamster wheel functioning – like I’m overthinking – I know I’m never going to figure it out that way.”

“And then,” she said, “I automatically relax. “

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