Monday, December 31, 2007

7 Things You Should Know About Being a Poet

Deborah Ager, taking off from a list by Aaron Mccullough in an interview in the Michigan Daily, offers her own 7 Things You Should Know About Being a Poet, with a challenge to come up with one's own list. Hers is worth checking out, and here's my response to the challenge. I've somewhat cheated, fudging on "you" -- some of my items are are directed to you the fledgling poet, some to you the general non-reader who's had the misfortune to be introduced to a poet at the office Christmas party:


1. There are things that pay worse.


2. Staying on the economics, it's a bizarre way of making a living, in that your entire product is a loss leader. You give it away to magazines that won't pay you anything, in order tio generate ancillary revenues -- teacthing jobs, grants and reading fees if you're lucky.


3. You can play the guitar in C and get by, but if you really care about what you're doing, you need to learn to play in every key. If you really care about poetry, you need to learn to write in form, and you need to learn how to break away from it.


4. Don't say anything that the reader will know without your saying it.


5. The question "what do you write about?" isn't a stupid question, but the answer has to be longer than anyone really wants to hear.


6. Just because you hate about 80% of the poems you read, it doesn't mean that you hate poetry.


7. We all begin to write poetry for the same reason: we have something to say. We have thoughts we want to express to the world, and we have feelings we want to share with the world.

So we start writing, and before long (if we’re lucky), but eventually (guaranteed), we will realize something. And this should be every poet's mantra, never to be forgottenr:

All your thoughts are shallow, and all your feelings are banal.

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