Saturday, January 9, 2010

So You're A Poet, eh?

I've often wondered what makes people call themselves a poet. Is it the ability to string along words that sound good together that allows one to use the title? Is it how others respond to what one has written or spoken? Every now and then I ask this of myself and usually come up with zilch. I'm just a poet...and I know it. But I'm sure there is more to it that validates my title. I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare (especially Sonnet 116) and I am no where close to his caliber of poetic-ness (I'm sure that's not really a word, but you know what I mean). However, just because I'm not as genius, does not mean I'm not worthy of being called a poet. Sure, I've read/heard poetry that wasn't to my liking or thought someone needed to reevaluate whether writing poetry was what they really could do. But who am I to tell them they aren't poets? Is there a defining moment where the 'writer' becomes the 'poet'? I guess I'm wondering because I haven't been to a poetry set in years, haven't published any of my pieces (beyond the occassional funeral program if requested), but still, I'm a poet. How easy is it to call yourself that? Help a sister out. What makes you a poet, beyond writing a poem (or two)?


pottygok said...

One thing that I tell students in my poetry classes is that a poet is required to a)continually write poetry and b)get that poetry into the public sphere. I will often add c)continually read poetry, because I don't think you can write good poetry without first having read good poetry, but those two might easily be combined into one.

Pressin On said...

to me articulating one's perspective in an accessible way opens the reader or listener to who you, the poet are.
all of us have insights, grief, joy...a poet has a need to share these by way of strung together sentences, maybe cleverly, maybe with beauty or even fist.
the need and ability to communicate using thrift of word successfully is common among poets.

in response to what pottygok wrote i'd say i read almost no poetry before writing poetry. it took a teacher i shared some of my writings with to tell me, assure me, what i wrote were poems. but when i found some poets i liked i read all of their work i could find. to know that poet enabled me to understand better their voice, their poems.
so reading good poets that really appeal to u is a grand exercise for understanding yr own voice, writing your own poems.

Runechris said...

Hmm... I've been told by someone in the Cleveland poetry community that you are not a poet unless you are accepted by other poets as one. "part of the clan" so to speak..
I also have been told.. that you MUST be published to be a poet.
But I also have been told.. that you are one if you write poetry and consider yourself to be one.

I like the previous comments above... but at this point don't know what to think.

I suppose I will stick with the one that says if you aren't recognized and accepted by the right people then you aren't one. Because that is the one that really matters and makes the visible difference.

Theresa Göttl Brightman said...

People have strange ideas about what is or isn't a poet (or artist, musician, etc, for that matter).

A friend who does lovely visual and graphic art told me several years ago that she hesitated to call herself an "artist"--she didn't want to identify with that kind of label and thereby have the expectations that others have of an "artist" thrust upon her.

I met someone not too long ago who said that he wouldn't call himself a "poet" until he started making a living off of it. (Poets would be very few in number in that case!)

Obviously, the answer is a subjective one--like most questions we ask here...

The comment about being "recognized and accepted by the right people" intrigues me though, because it implies a conformity among a group of people who tout nonconformity as a requirement. The heroes that we parade about as the ones who revolutionized poetry were never the ones who just went along with the pack. So if the above is true, poetry is in a sad state.

A poet is someone who writes poetry. Good or bad. Publicly or privately. Accepted or not.

But I like to think that "being" a poet is something you feel. You call yourself one when you KNOW that you are one.

Pressin On said...

i like that---can call yerself one when u know u'r one

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Works for me!

Shelley Chernin said...

I'm not even consistent from day to day. Some days I feel like I'm a poet and some days I don't.

Theresa Göttl Brightman said...

Akin to being in love, perhaps? We don't always "feel" like being around the husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend...but we know that we love them, and stick it out and work at that relationship.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau