Being a poet nowadays is like walking everywhere; unless you live in New York City, it serves no purpose. I often get scared to refer to myself as a poet because that means my calling in life is to make little money, occasionally write words, and confuse people with those words into believing they mean something, because people feel like they do. Today, there are so few options for becoming a successful poet. There are Instagram poets, slam poets, people who say they’re poets but just want to seem edgy poets, academic poets, somehow profoundly read by people poets, and then those who don’t want to claim to be a poet because it terrifies them poets. Based on what I’ve written so far, it’s pretty easy to deduce I classify as the latter because to say I am a poet is to shed the possibility of becoming something and accept an unstable standard of living (at least in my eyes).
To be a poet nowadays seems daunting, like every creative hoping to make a living in pursuit of their dreams, but without any successful, influential, and inspiring figures to look up to. Is Rupi Kaur our Maya Angelou? While the answer is a resounding no, finding a contemporary comparison is fruitless. Among the readers, writers, and lovers of poetry, we know a niche world where the groundbreaking poets play endlessly. While prestigious awards churn out for the “established” poets, followers skyrocket for the Instagram poets, and views build on Button Poetry for the slam poets, it leads me to question what the in-denial poets are left with.
On and off for the last year I’ve been writing my chapbook, My Middle Name is MEDUSA— I even used a draft for a job application. While I got the job (as a staff writer), I can’t help but feel a creative void widen. Every day I inch closer to it as my foundation begins to crumble. Time and responsibility drain the aching desire to finalize my chapbook and ooze my frustrations into the song of poetry. It sounds dumb, pretentious, and basic.
Who needs poetry anymore? Firstly, that question would never fall out of the mouth of a fiction, theatre, or even music lover. The ability to emote and unravel in the purest form of expression is a powerful tool to wield and sharpen. Every generation’s voice is defined by artists, from every craft. The art form of having something to say, whether it’s been said a thousand times over, should never die.
Yes, some may laugh or scoff at those who proudly proclaim to be a poet. In our day and age, people assume poets have a look and feel to them and that the next generation’s voice is hopeless, and our work is devoid of meaning. Yet, since the beginning of time, a poet’s life has never strayed from its purpose to expose and express their truth. We all possess the vulnerability to live and breathe a form of truth so unrelenting it’s exhausting and humiliating. I’ve dodged the poet identifier because it sounds silly and helpless. Now, in my mind, it’s one of the bravest pursuits in this life. We fashion words into meaning and believe they can breathe life the way we breathe it in and vice versa. What’s more singular and noble than that?