Monday, September 26, 2005

"Do you like to write poetry?"
"Yes," I answer.
"Have you published anything?"
"Oh, yes," I say with a partial grin. "Many."
"You want to be a poet?"
"I am a poet!"
When I meet people who have been lucky enough to discover that I'm a writer, this kind of conversation or something close to it has been fairly typical. I don't mind telling people this about myself and, even though I don't have a substantial book of poems to my name, which seems to be the measuring stick especially among those who are less familiar with the tender world of poetry, have always considered myself a poet, at least, since I was a green high school student dabbling rhymes in my spiral notebooks. Wouldn't you like to get your hands on those!

Recently, I've been reconsidering this label, poet. I teach English in an elementary school and, since you insist, teacher would be my current profession, which pays the bills well enough. It's much more satisfying than simply providing me with a living, but I'm not writing poems for a living and, perhaps, never will. Now, while reconsidering this title, this poet, I was reminded of something a friend of mine, Frank, insisted once: "Poetry is dead, dude." He was certainly not the first person to make that statement, and I remember being highly offended by it at the time. Maybe he's right.

I tried to argue about it, but there was no changing Frank. I still don't know if I feel comfortable around that statement, after all, I write poems, but I'm less ill at ease about it. I guess I wouldn't be the first one to practice a dead form, but I suppose, romantically, I'd like to consider myself a practitioner of some living, evolving, wonderful art, and it feels that way when I work at it. Perhaps, it's just something else. It's changing and evolving.

Writing. I write this blog. It's not poetry. Sometimes, it may be poetic, but it's just writing. Expressing myself with words. I also, almost entirely, work in this electronic world, exchanging e-mail with faceless handles and names I've come to know. Often, we exchange writing, which takes the form of poetry or other things. Pictures. Those things without names. E-poetry? No, that sounds like something you have to plug in and, well, in one way, if you're not plugged in you're just not getting it. How about some new jazzy term like Neo-Modern or Neo-Experimental Poetry. Hmm, sounds too derivative and those names probably have already been used in some context. Sometimes, I write poems in those old styles (villanelles, sonnets, etc.) so how about Post-Traditional? Whatever it is, it's a project for the critics who need those terms and I'll continue along, lapping them up and then spitting them back out again.

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