So You Want to Be a Poet


The poet lives in the world of language and imagination, love, death & obsession and yet still sees the universe in the smallest of everyday things that we merely take for granted. ~ R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz

If you own your self, are pledged to life, with a keen eye to the human condition and the wonder of the natural world around you, love the written word, possess a restless desire to express yourself, observe and define, bring language to life, there is a good chance you might be a poet in waiting.

If you have attempted a poem or two, made time to write a little something each day, supply your own encouragement, lost the fear of putting words to the page, unsure where your writing may lead, you might be on your way to becoming a poet.

If you understand that getting started, composing the first line, is the most important step, the gateway to a poem, you are a poet in the making. If you recognize authenticity and imagination, no matter one’s level of talent, are the essence of poetry, you are learning to be a poet. If you’ve found it may take countless iterations to bring a poem to fruition and you are willing to stay with it, you are becoming a determined poet.

If you have struggled with a poem, considered abandoning it to wherever unfinished poems go, and one day the poem calls out to you in the predawn hours, you welcome it, allow it one more chance — and when you complete the final stanza and something in your brain goes click, you are a persistent poet.

If you avoid pretentious language, recognize it can be a poem killer, you are a sensible poet. After you’ve sought inspiration and find it can’t be ordered and it later joins you on your morning walk, you are a poet whose receptive mind runs free. If you include a touch of intrigue in a poem, allow readers to take part, you are a generous poet.

If you occasionally have nagging doubts about your ability, like many others, you’re an eyes-wide-open poet. If you acknowledge your forgettable poems may outweigh your better ones, you are a realistic poet.

If you are struck with an idea during the night and get out of bed to jot it down, you are an eager poet. If you use style guides judiciously, but trust your own instincts over formulas, you are confident poet, focused on a poem’s power and meaning.

If your completed poem is other than how you first envisioned it and you’re surprised, but satisfied, you are a contented poet who may have experienced one of poetry’s mysteries. If you understand and accept that poetry is not a commercial venture and few will have more than a casual interest in your works, you’re a perceptive poet.

If you suffer guilt on those days you don’t write, like the marathoner who misses a daily run, poetry is now a part of you. You are a poet in full.

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This Poems Story

The phases of becoming a poet.