In keeping with finally claiming my poet’s hat, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a poet. I’m going to try and spend a few days thinking out loud about this idea and I hope you’ll think along with me.
On one hand I think that being a poet is as simple as what makes a writer: a writer writes and a poet writes poems. But on the other hand I know it is much more complicated than that. I think it’s a way of looking at the world around you as well as a way of recording what you see. And it is, of course, how you choose to record it. There are many aspects of being a poet but today I’m just thinking of one side of it all, slowing down so you can pay attention.
I think to be a poet you need to be willing to sit still and be. Later you can sit still and think and ponder one word over the other but there needs to be a willingness to just sit and be. And I have trouble with that. I always feel like I need to be racing off to do one thing or another (because I usually do need to be heading off to do one thing or the other) and I short-cut my way through too much of my life.
When I wrote my father poems last April for National Poetry Month I didn’t try to do them in the middle of my busy day. I did them at night, the last thing before bed. My brain was full and tired. I sat on the couch, my laptop on my lap, and thought back over my childhood, forcing myself to remember as much as I could. Then I would pick an age and a scene and I just wrote. The poems came quickly, probably because they have been festering all my life. But I also think it was because I spent some quiet time before trying to write, time where I let myself just be.
If this is what I need to be a poet why is it so hard to give that gift of quiet time to myself?
I don’t know the answer to that. But perhaps, like the acceptance of myself as a poet, it is enough for me to know that is something I need. That it is part of my job description. The trick, I suppose, is how to find those quiet times in the midst of our crazy days.
So what about you? What does it mean to you to be a poet (whether or not you are one?)