I am a poet. There. Easy. I typed that without any trouble at all – in fact there might even have been a little frisson in the simple act of tapping out those eleven characters.
So why have I never said those words out loud? Sure, I’ve muttered “I write poetry” to people – generally after a few drinks to those I think might be relatively sympathetic. D’you know, I think I might be faintly embarrassed. To make that declaration, do people expect you to make a living from writing poetry? Or perhaps I’m worried that people are going to find it a bit pretentious, or worse, amusing. I have a day job, so do people think that writing poetry is a sad little hobby? Do they imagine my writing is going to be like those cringey rhyming couplets that oddbods send into the local paper?
Now if you tell someone you’re a writer, I suspect the result would be a bit different. There’s a bit more kudos to that title, which is generic enough to cover lots of forms of stringing words together in order to communicate with other humans. You could be writing everything from screenplays and novels (the sexy end) to market profiles about the telecoms industry in Latvia (one of which I have done professionally – can you guess which?).
A friend of mine is a writer in the sexy sense. A play he co-wrote with a friend is about to be performed to what I suspect will be universal acclaim. He’s also ghost written several books for famous (and infamous) people who lacked the wit or time to do it for themselves. He even looks like a writer – slightly Bohemian, definitely windswept and 100% interesting. Writing is the entire source of his income and although there must be some precarious times financially, I don’t think he’s ever been happier.
I haven’t spoken to many people in my circle of family and acquaintances about this business of my being a poet – in a way, it feels like I’m under cover. My wife possibly thinks it’s a bit pretentious but can tell that it’s something I really want to do. My dad is supportive but a little mystified by what the notion of writing and sharing modern poetry entails. My sister said that she enjoys reading my poems, including one that was published recently online about our dear departed gran.
Other than those people, the rest of my friends, family and colleagues might see me sharing links on Facebook or Twitter to poems I’ve written, or published on Clear Poetry but none of them (except people who I’ve befriended through 52 or my blog) ever comments. I wonder why? Are they embarrassed on my behalf? Do they worry that they might not feel qualified to say something about what I’ve posted? Don’t people like poetry any more? Or, and this is the worst thought, which creeps up on me when I least expect it, do they think my poetry is rubbish?
Anyway, it’s time to come out. I’m going to start trying to do some readings at local open mic nights. I’m building towards my first pamphlet, which (if it ever happens) I’ll have to publicise. Perhaps then, with my own book for sale to willing punters, I’ll feel like I’m doing it for real and can proclaim “I am what I am”.