Are You a Poet?

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During the recent holiday period I was conducting research for 2017 blog posts when I stumbled across a discussion asking whether the title of poet should be restricted.

There were some contrasting views, with one stating anyone calling themselves a poet should be distrusted as, “poet is a title necessarily bestowed on you by others.” Some participants suggested you should only use the term if you were a poet and wrote poetry as a full-time occupation.

Most English dictionaries describe a poet as someone who writes poetry, but is it as simple as that? For example, do you need to have had poetry published, or written a poetry book or won a poetry competition, before you can allude to the title?

In my younger days, I was once told by a teacher to beware of anyone who called themselves an expert or guru as people, labelling themselves as such, had stopped learning. Again, it was a title to be bestowed by others. Is it the same for poets? Can someone who recklessly uses the term poet be at risk of arrest from the Poetry Police, or is being a poet something to be shouted from the rooftops?

Are you happy to call yourself a poet, or would you rather let others use the title on your behalf?

I would be interested to read your thoughts.

If you would like to read more from the discussion, click on this link at Magma Poetry.

73 Comments

Calling oneself a poet does sound pretentious. Far better to let others, if they so wish, give you that title. In that vein, I often refer to my verses rather than to my poetry. Perhaps that’s being a bit too self-conscious? Interesting post.

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Few would call me a poet, as it doesn’t define me even though I do write a bit of poetry.
To say someone is a poet would always depend on context and their choice of words.
WORD

Sorry
Pardon
What did you just say

One lobbed word didn’t
Go off inside my head
Like they usually do
Grenades
Loaded
Primed
To Detonate
Triggering neurons
Racing to connect
Me with you

One word
One embedded
In a context that
Gave no clue
I heard the word
Its not one I knew
So
What was it you said
Do I need it in my head
Best you say it again
Then explain what it means
To you and then we might
Examine its emotional context
Else you’ll leave me all perplexed

RJDaniels©2016

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This is an interesting discussion. As a non-poet but a published author, I love the craft of writing, the sounds of words and their majesty on the page. And, I bow to those who, with just a minimum of words, transform my day. Whether titled or not, if your verse touches me, a poet you are – that is the only criteria for me.

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    And good criteria it is too Gwen. This conversation follows from the post I wrote about What is poetry? At the end of the day they are labels placed on writers who write, poetry being a specific form. Some of your writing could be considered poetry therefore would you be a poet? I agree with you that the emotion raised in the reader is more important than the label.

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I would be definitely honored. Even though the title comes with a lot of responsibility but I would be proud.

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I enjoy writing. In my heart I am a poet. Even if I’m not very good. I do it most days and hope to grow in it. Only those closest to me even know I dabble. I generally don’t declare to be a poet, though I’ve said, “I write.” I may never get recognition or make money for anything that I write. That hasn’t and presumably won’t change my passion for it. It would be wonderful of course, but definitely not necessary for my heart to be content.

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To me a poet is a writer that writes pretty words that really make you think about and feel your own (and others) emotions and the world around you. I believe a novelist could be a poet if his/her story sparked certain emotions and thoughts, even though most people would disagree, but it’s obvious that the mass majority would disagree because they’re just as eager not to change their standpoints as I am. I know this definition isn’t conventional (or traditional) but in reality nothing is concrete and like everything else perspective has a huge role in what things mean. But yea I’m short, any poet can be a writer but not every writer could be a poet. Like cucumbers and pickles.

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    Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree about the context within writing as, like you, I would consider some novels to be poetic in their form and the emotions they draw from the reader. I think poetry can be found in all art forms and vice-versa. I also think it comes down to personality type as I would never have the patience to write a novel, which is why I enjoy writing poetry more.

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Great thought-provoking post, Dave.

Someone who writes poetry is a poet, regardless of the quality, publication or awards. An issue comes (raised in the Magma Poetry link you shared) when someone asks you ‘what do you do?’ – usually meaning or interpreted as ‘what do you do for a living?’ This question is problematic for some people – what if you have multiple jobs? what if you have multiple interests and don’t want to be defined by your ‘main source of income’? A more appropriate question is ‘how do you spend your time?’ and if you write poetry, you are a poet.

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    Thank you Dan for your excellent perspective on the question. Many poets, I assume, do not write poetry as a main source of income but mainly as a hobby or for therapeutic benefits. I agree with you, if a person writes poetry, they are a poet. It seems from some of the responses the issue is whether the poet would have the confidence or status to call themselves a poet. I appreciate you taking time out to add to the conversation.

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I am a Poet, I am a Writer…now, some days I might not be a great poet/writer, but I’m still those names, they are part of who I am, a cherished identity. Whether someone else agrees, calls me them–I don’t waste a minute’s care about it 🙂 Wonderful post, Davy!!

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And this left me laughing because of being arrested by Poetry Police and also got me thinking. I do agree. Poet is a title that should be given to you, it is not something you claim that “Hey, I am a poet!”
I am sure if I am a poet. But I love poetry and I love writing poetry. I think that’s all that matters. 🙂

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    On the contrary, dearie, I do believe that the title can be claimed as much as it can be given. Those renowned poets that we look up to started off as beginners, writing and re-writing, until they worked their way up. Same goes for most of us here. I think it all boils down to the heart of the person who claims to be one. So long as poetry plays a big part in our lives, so long as it is in our bloodlines – regardless if it’s a good one or a work in progress (I refuse to call them bad poems), infamous or not, in print or simply in the world wide web– then by all means let’s call ourselves poets.

    I’m claiming I am one and I strongly believe you are too. 🙂 ❤

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    You are a poet of the highest degree Rosema, but as you say, does the title really matter? I’m glad you liked the poetry police as they will be making appearances in various posts throughout the year 🙂

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P.S. D, this is an insightful post. Thank you. I enjoy reading through the conversations above. 🙂

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To me it is very plain and not pretentious at all. A poet is someone that thinks and writes in a poetic manner, a writer writes. It just states the occupation ^_^

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Hi Davy, enjoyed reading the replies. As a part time constable in the Poetry police I have taken notes. As you know, it is the belief of the Poetry police that it is the poem that is important. The person who writes the poem in irrelevant.

Have a productive new year.

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    Thank you Inspector Belcher and a Happy 2017 to you. I have to agree once the poem is written the poet is of minor relevance. I shall hopefully be keeping the poetry police in some gainful employment as the year progresses.

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Labels are present outside of your body. How would label something that is to intrinsic to your soul. #Love poetry # don’t ask for labelling

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    I agree with your comment, unfortunately we have to thank our brain for the labels we put on things. It is how it makes sense of the world. We do have the capacity to change the name of the label though. Thanks for taking time out to read and add to the conversation.

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How could i missed this one…

Anyway, i have been in the academic world teaching literature and journalism classes..
I once taught literary criticism; at some point in the discussion..we were went as far as the same forum as this…so from the academicians’ point of view one has to have published poetry to be worthy of the title…but of course this is just on the basis of academic discussions..and this may not even be applicable to some places.

So i say..regardless of…we keep on writing …let the spirit of poetry reign upon us all.

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I’ve never taken a creative writing course or studied poetry writing, but I’ve read and written it for as long as I can remember. A master or a dabbler, I don’t think it matters. I would call myself a poet if the situation calls for it 🙂

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    Thank you Jon. You have raised a vey good point. Is it the experience you have in writing poetry that can determine whether you are a poet? I will ponder on that point. Many thanks for taking time to read the post and get involved in the conversation 🙂

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      Agree with Jon! I’ve never taken a course either, I’ve learned and studied through many of my favorite poets. However, I believe that whether it is your occupation or your hobby, it is still a form of self expression and you don’t have to have credentials to express yourself. Labels aren’t going anywhere.

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      Totally agree. I think the labels of poet and poetry are misleading and it is interesting to get the many varied responses to the question. If we ever get to define poetry then no doubt it will change as human expression changes as we evolve. Thanks for dropping by and adding to the conversation.

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I love this post. But I believe there are lots of real poet out there whose voices have not been heard. But poet still should be restricted on those who have tons of meaningful poetry filled of imagery.

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To do is to be.
If you write poetry then you are a poet, at least at the moment of creation.
But all these names: artist, poet, musician, or even teacher, doctor, soldier to name but a few, they are just boxes that society creates and then shoves you in because it loves to have a handle on people.
Personally I refuse to be defined by labels.
I am who the hell I want to be.

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If a person makes art, that person is an artist.
Is art defined by the critics? Or is the artist defined by repeated attempts at artistic expression?
The artist becomes art.

Is the art any good? That is neither here nor there, the intention is the only thing of revelance.
I like to think the same holds true for poets and poetry. I write poems, people call me a poet.
But do I need external validation to confirm if I am a poet? No. But I am a poet, and I have no problem calling myself one. Do I introduce myself like that? No. I try avoid coming off as pretentious. But once I find myself spending alot of time with somebody, i tell them so they don’t wonder why I’m always writing and talking to myself.

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    Thank you Sean for a very eloquent and insightful response. The question can be posed on a number of levels and I agree with your view of being a poet but not being pretentious enough to refer to yourself as one. I also laughed at the talking to yourself comment. It seems to be a common trait for all artists.

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I think that if you write poetry, you can call yourself a poet like if you write, you can call yourself a writer. It’s just as simple as that. It doesn’t have to be some big fancy title. Amateur poets are still poets. If you enjoy it and identify with it, then there should be no restrictions on the word. It’s the same as sports, you know, if you run, you can call yourself a runner, same with cycling and so on. There shouldn’t be any rules with art or creation, or anything else for that matter 🙂

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I believe that to be a poet is to be someone unique by birth as the words of a poet can be of great influence in the society.So I don’t think that calling oneself a poet is not much misleading because if one have

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That magic in their writing they would write post and soon the world will themselves call them a poet and will forget the misleading people who just show off in name of poetry

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This is a very interesting topic, thank you for shining light on it!
What would someone who writes poetry be referred to if not a poet?
Someone who writes poetry? A talented creative writer?
I’ve written quiet a few poems and shared them on some websites but interestingly enough have not referred to myself as a poet. Reading your post, I have actually realized that I am indeed a poet. I am a poet because I write poems, a lot of them.
I don’t need somebody’s else’s permission to be able to call myself a poet when I know deep down that I am… even if I don’t have any published poems…
I am what I say I am, whether it be smart, funny, successful…
Thank you for helping me realize that I am a Poet 🙂

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    A pleasure amongthestars 2017. This has been a very interesting conversation and it has been useful to see the different perspectives. I think at the end of the day if you write poetry you are a poet. I’ve dubbed myself a poetrist. It is keeping the poetry police at bay 🙂 Thank you for adding to the conversation.

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