On being a Poetry Writer vs. a Poet

So, while writing my Poetic Statement, I got to thinking about the differences between being a “poetry writer” and a “poet.” In my mind, there’s a distinction between the two. Being a poetry writer means you can write poetry (and damn well, probably), but you don’t see yourself as mainly a poetry writer. Maybe you also write fiction, or non-fiction.  Meanwhile, being a poet carries a certain connotation that poetry is your bread and butter. Being a poet means that’s your “thing.”


I find it interesting there isn’t really an equivalent to being a poet for fiction or non-fiction. I’m pretty sure Rachel Hall (or was it Kristen Gentry??) uses the term “fictioneers,” but judging by the red squiggle-line under it in my word document, that term isn’t widely-accepted. To get specific titles for those, you have to get more specific, like “novelist” or “biographer” and the likes. So, is it a question of genre? Someone who writes fiction would be called a fiction writer, no matter their specific sub-genre, but once you get into that, labels come out of everywhere. Why is “poet” a universal label for poet-writers who feel comfortable enough with the word? There’s tons of different types of poems, so shouldn’t writer labels correspond to that?

One Reply to “On being a Poetry Writer vs. a Poet”

  1. I think that question of title or categorization is what made me so hesitant to work with poetry in the first place. You don’t often hear of any popular novelists writing poems, especially if what they are known for is their fiction. I guess I just didn’t want to feel limited as a writer of poetry to the label “poet,” because I wasn’t even sure I was a good enough writer to consider myself anything. I wonder if poetry isn’t such a specific term, and maybe we’re limiting the scope of poetry to one specific kind of writing, where the Greeks considered poetry to be any kind of piece of writing, even historical documents.

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