Am I a poet?

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A friend recently asked me if I was writing. I replied, as I always do, saying that it was going fine, thank you. Which doesn’t really tell you anything, and may or may not be the truth. Which is itself fine. ‘Fine’ can cover a lot of unspoken territory.

Writing, not writing, about to be writing, does it matter? I am asked by another friend to supply a short biog note. I read it back to myself before pressing ‘send’. It says: ‘Anthony Wilson is a poet…’ and then some other words which are much more likely to pass as the objective truth, about things like where I work and live. But am I a poet? Most of the time (any of it?). Only when I am writing a poem, as someone once said. Which isn’t often. (Or maybe a lot: who knows?) Or in the process of writing a group of poems, as part of a creative upsurge or cycle (which may or may not be happening); or in the process of chucking out the bad stuff (i.e. nearly everything) as I tentatively venture to think I should maybe get round to thinking about the possibility of sorting the mess into a manuscript. At which point I go downstairs and make coffee. Am I a poet then? As I make coffee? Or only when I come back upstairs, having not paid attention to the radio, to delete what I thought was a great title and replace it with one I am still not sure of but think will be better in the long run?

‘Fine,’ I say. ‘It’s going fine, thanks.’

And then nothing. We move on to other things. Them, preferably.

All I know is (I know nothing) that there are cycles, and that they are the rules, and in the bits between them you show up, read, mooch, meditate, pray, read, mooch, scratch, doodle, yawn, speak to no one, show up and pay attention. All in good faith. All in hope, but without expectation. Aurora Borealis but no cascade of light, as Heaney says (chance would be a fine thing). And sleep. Lots of sleep. And walks.

And that the worst bit of the cycle is when you think it has really gone forever. The bit between. The emptiness between one project closing and another presenting itself. The void. When you really are certain it has vanished and will not be returning to you. Then. Now? (Now.) This. Now.

Happy National Poetry Day.

26 comments

  1. Sue Hepworth

    First, you are a poet, whether or not you are writing. Plus, I’ve been telling everyone you are a poet – as in – “a poet asked me to write a guest post on his blog!”
    Second, the void – oh the void! I am in the void. I recently wrote on a competition form “When I’m not writing I feel as though I am wasting my time” and this week, this month, it isn’t true. Becsue I am temporarily incapacitated, when I am not outside in the fresh air, I feel as though i am wasting my time.
    Third. Once a writer, or once a poet, ALWAYS a writer/poet. There is no escape.

    Like

  2. Meg Cox

    I love your blogs too, often because of their modest uncertainty. I never question if I am a poet, although I have much more reason to than you do, because 5 years ago next month at my first Arvon course at a snow whitened Lumb Bank, Michael Laskey was our tutor. The first thing he said to us aspiring, anxious lot was that we were poets. That was the main thing, to think of ourselves as poets, always. And I have. I have boldly told people I am, when asked (I’m used to the looks of bemusement). And I know that some poets are prolific and some poets struggle to write one poem a year, some poets dash a poem off in 10 minutes and Elizabeth Bishop took 10 years to refine ‘One Art’ to her own and our satisfaction. And it doesn’t matter. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. barleybooks

    A thoughtful, honest post as always. Happy NPD Anthony, and thank you for your blog.
    A poet friend of mine told me recently, “I’m between poems.” Which is what I am most of the time. But still a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A few links for National Poetry Day UK – Josephine Corcoran
  5. Kate Evans

    Thanks for your interesting blogs which I always enjoy reading. If it helps any, Gestalt psychotherapists call the void a ‘fertile void’ – it’s the time after completion (and celebration) of the meeting of a need or project when the next need/project is beginning to bubble up. I wrote about it in my book ‘Pathways through writing blocks in the academic environment’. I believe it’s a really important part of the cycle to honour and nourish. I think walking is essential for writers, or at least movement is, I’ve just completed St Cuthbert’s Way and am pontificating on the links between writing and walking on the Mslexia blog. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ggmissm

    It would be exhausting to be constantly on top of any creative game. Creativity requires air and space and time and, most of all, play. None of these are wasted for a creative soul. And you, Anthony, are a most creative soul (and a most soulful creator) – a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. MarinaSofia

    Happy belated poetry day and you most certainly are a poet – and a writer who captures so well that feeling of ‘can I call myself a writer if I am not currently feeling or being creative?’ As you can tell from the comments, boy, can we ever relate to that!

    Liked by 1 person

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