Poet? Who, Me?

Although I've had a bit of recent success writing poetry, I do not consider myself a poet. To me the title of poet is one of those things that's conferred upon someone by others, such as posterity.

Mind you, I'm not knocking anyone that calls themselves a poet. This is my situation (translation: problem) I'm talking about.

Although I studied some poetry in my English major days, I don't read much of it now. Yes, I'm a fan of T.S. Eliot. So what? In the science fiction field, it is widely known that if you haven't read much science fiction you'll make an ass of yourself trying to write it. You won't know what you're doing and make all kinds of mistakes that will instantly brand you a newbie. I can't help but feel that way about poetry. I don't know the rules on the various types of poetic forms (except for writing haiku) so I write mostly free verse.

The thing is, I don't read poetry. I'm completely ignorant of the field and its doings. I couldn't name three living, publishing poets right now if you threatened to strap me down and make me watch the 700 Club a la "A Clockwork Orange." So how can I be a poet?

You could say this is related to the problem of when can a person call themselves a writer. Some folks say that you should only do that if your primary source of income is your writing (I'm sure the IRS feels that way). Others say if you want to call yourself a writer even if you haven't published a word, then you're a writer by God. Frankly, I agree with the second category...for everyone else. I'm not comfortable calling myself a writer, as I'm not entirely certain that the total number of people who've read my work would outnumber my high school graduating class.


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Last updated 16 September 2000
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