“It’s for the world to decide if you are a poet or not”
The above quote is from an introduction by Robert Graves to Selected Poems of Robert Frost. Graves then goes on to talk about Frost being America’s first Master Poet, a master in that he new what he was doing and why. As to his mastery, I think there can be no doubt. Out of all the poet’s foisted on me by the education system, Frost seems to have stuck and a distinct admiration has grown.
Frost, incidentally, wasn’t a fan of having people learn poetry at school. He felt, apparently, that it reduced it to mere information. I don’t know if I quite agree, I certainly wouldn’t have come across him in any other way, being a hemisphere away and some generations removed from his.
But his quote above did encourage some thinking, about writing and general and poetry in particular. There appear to be at least a couple of schools of thought on the matter. On the one hand if one writes fiction or poems on a regular basis, in a professional manner then one is entitled to call one’s self an author or poet, regardless of publication or payment- isn’t one?
Though after admitting to the fact that you are a writer, that conversation is often followed by a query as to whether you are published, or where your books can be bought. This is the point at which I usually stumble, if I have got over the hurdle of admitting that I write in the first place.
The wider public seem to be in line with Frost. In general it seems you have to have external validation whether by peers or the paying publisher to be taken seriously. Then again Emily Dickinson only had something like four poems published in her lifetime and she’d be one of the first poets that would leap to mind if I was pressed to remember 10 off the top of my head.
I don’t know where I sit with this. I am trying to take myself seriously writing poetry to develop that practiced discipline that will eventually engender an addiction to the process. I meet a few people who write poetry myself and even I engage in judgement of them. I will ask or be thinking about what sort of poetry and where it’s published. I do note though that most will say they write some poetry rather than say that they are a Poet.
When asked the question: Are you a poet?
How do you answer?