The aim of this paper is to study the second person pronoun in the poetry of Randall Jarrell and Gabriel Ferrater. The main thesis goes against the commonplace that holds that the second person pronoun is a mere trace dependent on the poetic I. As we shall demonstrate, the You is absent or evanescent, and its relation to I cannot be reciprocal but shifting.
Since both poets were conspicuous literary critics this article first draws up an outline of the possible theoretical implications for selecting that voice. The commentary on their poems is divided into four sections taking up Genette’s concept of palimpsest. Based on a comparison of Ferrater’s “La cara” and Jarrell’s “The Face,” second person clues lead us to comment on the different reading conventions they could have considered before writing a poem. The third section analyzes the second person anchorage, conceived less as an imprisoning structure than as an impossibility of naming (reading) the You properly. Studies of “Well water” and “Si puc” show how naming things that are open to the senses is the only way we can indirectly glimpse, reconstruct or interpret the original relation between first and second person pronouns —a relation we cannot help thinking of as the real— rather than phantasmal —overlapping realism.