The question of writerly labels recently surfaced in a Poetry Workshop: Do those of us who feel passionately enough about poetry feel that we can label ourselves as poets?
The reactions were mostly negative. When asked what made us feel like poets, the responses were mixed, and filled with hopeful talk about what would make the label “poet” stick. I didn’t speak in class about what would make me feel like a poet, because I don’t feel as though anything will. I’m also not a fictionalist, although it’s the genre that I prefer. Nonfiction is a genre so far away from my interests, I consider it alien in nature. I hate being called an author, even though some of my work has been picked up by small magazines. That title is too hefty for me to bear.
The one thing that I will allow people to call me is writer, because it’s what I do: I write. I tell stories. I fabricate lies, lives, worlds, scenarios, drama. “Writer” is an androgenous word that doesn’t put any pressure on me to produce one type of genre. The word is actually freeing. Being a writer means that I have the right to produce any work I wish, show it to whomever I want, and abandon a story or poem, to start on a new one. The word has no bounds, and that is what I love about it. Writing is something that can be done at any time of the day, at any place, no matter the outstanding circumstances. And therefore, the person who produces the writing also deserves a multi-purpose word. Writer is about the only label I’ve ever put on myself, and will continue to.