Two years ago I joined Poetrysoup as a genre fiction writer who also writes poetry.
I refused to call myself a poet. Moi? Ridiculous!
First point, I’m a published short story writer. I’ve written a novel (sucked) and plan to write at least twenty more (hope I’ve learned enough to make sure they don’t suck, too. LOL). It seemed strange to try to stretch myself between poetry and fiction (PUH-lease, do not call it prose. No writer of fiction or non-fiction refers to it as prose.)
Second point, the incredible caliber of poetry written by Soupers made me feel like calling myself a poet would be like Abbott and Costello calling themselves brain surgeons. I didn’t measure up. Not by my standards.
I was reading poetry that made me think, cry, laugh and dream. Some nice poetry. Some good poetry. Some GREAT poetry.
The thing is whenever I envision a TRUE poet, a REAL poet, I think of Mattie Stepanek.
If you don’t know who he is please immediately click on the link. Take the time to read and watch. I promise you that he is worth the effort.
Mattie began writing poetry at three.
He published six books of poems and died at the age of fourteen.
My bucket list will never be fully checked off, at least not while I’m alive. Because meeting Mattie is fairly high on that list.
So, what MAKES a poet?
Simple, a poet is made by writing poetry.
Writing one poem does not make you a poet. NEEDING to write poetry and doing so consistently makes you a poet. It is the COMPULSION to write verse which defines a writer as a poet.
I do not believe that you need to be published to be a writer or a poet.
Oh, but it is nice! LOL.
There are poets here who only share their poetry on Soup. There are octogenarians who write poems several times a week, just because they must. They are poets. There are teens who are just starting out, yet spend hours writing free verse instead of texting about ‘the Bieb’. They are poets. There are lawyers and truck drivers and doctors and ministers and computer technicians and market analysts who wake up at 1 a.m., get out of bed and write sonnets or haiku. They, too, are poets. There are people with Down’s Syndrome, autism, dyslexia or Turrets who enjoy writing poetry and do so as often as they can. They are poets. In fact, they are as much a poet as the current Poet Laureate.
Here are a few reasons that a poet will not call him/herself a poet
1) Modesty. They can not see themselves in this light. Poets are wise, intelligent, and concise with their language. Their writing is stellar, and their grammar is beyond reproach. These poets are not there ... yet.
2) Embarrassment. The general public doesn’t view poets as serious writers; a serious writer is someone who is aiming for paid publication, something most poets do not achieve. There is a certain... stigma to being a poet. Fill in the dots...starving - - - -.
3) Laziness. Admitting that you are a poet and not ‘just’ a writer of poetry’ means that you are free to write sloppy poetry. Calling yourself a poet raises expectation, your own as well as that of the reader. Poets push themselves, raise the bar and edit their work with a critical eye.
4) Fear – some critic will stomp all over their work, ridicule their content, arrangements, say, is that the best you got, hot shot? And you call yourself a poet?
I am was 100% guilty of all 4 of these reasons for not standing up and saying, I AM A POET.
Then, I had an epiphany.
Did Maya Angelou pop out of the womb writing perfect poetry?
First, she was just a writer of poetry.
Then, guess what?
She was a terrible poet.
Yup. There was, most likely, a period of time that she referred to himself as a dismal poet. Then she became a so-so poet. Then one day she became a pretty good poet.
We now know her as an amazing poet.
Yes, poetry is an art and we can speak about heart and soul and vision and integrity until our lips cramp. I agreed with every statement on David’s cool blog, even the ones that disagreed with other points of view, lol, if that makes sense.
I believe we need to take poetry off its pedestal, remove some of its mystique.
Now, some of you know I discourage the use of adjectives, feel that poetry is stronger without them. And yet here I am about to lay dozens on you!
I think that even those who have, to this point, felt unable to define themselves as a poet will be suddenly see themselves SOMEWHERE on this list ...
HERE ARE 101 WAYS TO OUT YOURSELF AS A POET...
WHO ARE YOU?
HI, My name is (fill in your name) and I AM A(N)......
Danged awful Poet
Damned fine Poet
Hallmark Card Poet
Nude Poet ( please, don’t tell us. LOL)
One Cool @ss Poet
Part Time Poet
Rogue Poet (Miss you Natalie!)
Run of the Mill Poet
So... did I make sense?
Are you feeling this?
Do you see yourself, here?
Can you join me, now, a
and say WHOLEHEARTEDLY,
I..... AM.... A..... POET!
Whatcha think? ARE YOU READY???