“I’m sometimes asked why I chose poetry, and not some other genre. This is a good question. Some poets feel that they do not choose poetry, it chooses them…Poetry, I would argue, is a calling. It is not a job, not a task, not even a career, though some have described it this way—it’s a calling.”
When I read this quote by Kurt Brown, in his essay “A Small, Quiet Voice,” I couldn’t help but feel like someone had read my mind. There have been conversations in class about how poetry serves us poets, or how us poets fit into the world. The quote above is a key to understanding both of those questions. I mean, isn’t it a calling of sorts? What kind of person decided they want to be a poet for life, unless they feel it is absolutely their duty to do so? It’s a trap of course, one goes into a poetry workshop as a “test trial” and then one never exits the workshop because they fall in love with the genre, or because they find a missing piece of themselves or of the world, within poetry. Maybe poets spend a significant amount of time cursing the day they decided to take that step towards a workshop. But, I don’t really. I think taking a workshop was mostly an intentional decision—like my mind and body were pulling me towards it even though I wasn’t conscious that it was exactly what I needed. I mean, the universe seemed to be saying “here’s a poem. Here’s another poem! Oh. Look. A poem! Is that a poem your writing? A (poetry?) reading?” but I didn’t really get those hints. I was just like I’m gonna write non-fiction! And everyone kept saying my non-fiction was too dreamy and flowery. If that wasn’t a hint, then I don’t know what was. Another hint was that I was and continue to be a highly-sensitive person, who enjoys using the senses as a way of moving about the world. I prefer sensing the world as opposed to understanding it.
But this idea that poetry is not a career is troublesome to me. It is again, diminishing the role of poetry in our society. Where emotions are dying, poetry is in demand. It is very much an important job to document the here and now of humanity—the direct internal thoughts that can be deciphered through analysis. The poetry of today captures the essence of the society we live in, and in a few decades, it will be of extreme importance for people who want to understand what the past was or how humans have evolved emotionally throughout time. The definition of calling is : “an inner urge or a strong impulse, especially one believed to be divinely inspired.” And while it is that, that seems too dreamy and too surreal—it reminds me of when people tell me “I know you’re into writing,” as opposed to “I know you are a writer,” because the first sounds like writing is a thing I do not take seriously, or I do as a hobby—and the second sounds like something serious, professional, and something I am passionate about. So as much as I feel I have been “called” to poetry, I feel that poetry is a job, and like any job, it is my duty to develop skills, hone them, apply them, and progress.
What do you guys think? Does poetry feel like a calling or a job to you?