Scanning the poetry news today, I came across “Author reveals his ‘secret life’ writing poetry,” by Lisa Pierce from The Advocate. It’s about a poetry event for John Phillip Santos’ poetry collection Songs Older Than Any Known Singer (Wings Press).
In the article, Santos says, “Once I moved to New York and began making television shows (the act of writing poetry) became even more private. I was working at CBS News for the first years in New York and it just wasn’t something you told your colleagues openly about.”
Through the years, I’ve spoken with many poets who’ve shared this sentiment where it’s okay to be a poet around other poets. But in the everyday life, these same poets are afraid to reveal they’re poets around “regular folk” (who may or may not be poets themselves).
I’m often guilty of this myself. In my Clark Kent life, I’m a mild-mannered editor of Writer’s Market with two sons and a love of outdoor activities (running, disc golfing, hiking, etc.). But at night, when even crime (or rhyme?) is sleeping, I break out the pen and composition notebook and craft poems with wild abandon as Superman. In the morning, I put my Clark Kent spectacles back on, part my hair in the other direction, and trade in my tights for business casual. If the “regular folk” mention poets or poetry, I usually just give an all-knowing smile without revealing my identity.
Why do poets feel this way? Are poets generally thought of as bad people who should not be around children or small dogs? Are poets considered outcasts who are never invited to social gatherings? I’m pretty sure the answer is no–yet, many poets (myself included, mind you) feel the need to hide their identities around the “regular folk.” These are the same “regular folk” most poets lament don’t read poetry. Hmmm…
Maybe we should be more open about our identities as poets. Maybe everyone should scrawl that down as a New Year resolution heading into 2008. Put it after reading and writing more poetry past the witching hour.
In the meantime, read this excellent article by Nancy for Writer’s Digest magazine: “The 21st Century Poet.”
In it, Nancy goes over a survey conducted by the Poetry Foundation and says, “While we should be most concerned with writing poetry, not who we are as poets, I can’t help but think more people would read our work if they realized we’re right there waiting in the dentist’s office, cheering during our kids’ soccer games, getting our tires rotated, walking the dog in the park, comparing the prices of canned beans in Aisle 5 and buying a cup of coffee at the convenience store.”