Are we “poets” yet?

So even through creative writing class last semester, this semester’s poetry workshop, and officially becoming a creative writing major, I still have trouble calling myself a “poet”–even a “writer” sometimes. I guess there’s something about the art that feels like I’m always working towards becoming that, and it seems so far away all the time. I know professors in creative writing classes often address us as “writers” or “poets”, but to me–and maybe it really is just me–it still feels weird to accept that. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never been published or because I know I’m young… But when did/do we become “poets”? Is it once we’re published? Or was it all the way back when we wrote our first poems? Anyone else have any thoughts on this or am I just rambling and not making any sense?


In looking through my poetry from this semester, I find it very interesting to see what pieces have developed from the weekly exercises. A lot of the time when I would do these exercises, I would get an idea of what to write, but the poem would develop into something totally different by the end. I even felt weird about submitting it as an exercise sometimes because it changed so much throughout the writing process. Sometimes the poems ended up having nothing to do with the initial exercise by the time I was ready to submit them. I guess I felt the need to take advantage of what inspired me rather than following guidelines more closely. Did anyone else have this experience? Or do I just have issues following instruction?

Endless Revision

As the due date for the inevitable portfolio (which I’m sure we’ve all been avoiding thinking about all semester) approaches, I can’t help but question the revision process. Looking at the poems I’ve written throughout the semester and revising them until they’re “finished” is quite a daunting task. I mean, when will they ever really be finished? It’s intimidating enough to submit a piece for workshop, but at least then I know people are aware that the poem is a work in progress. Sure, I can take my classmates’ and professor’s advice and improve the poem, but I feel like there’s always more to be done. In fact, I bet we could spend one whole semester of this class each only writing one poem and revising it more and more each week. Even then, we still probably wouldn’t feel that the work is done! Maybe it’s just me, but I never get that “okay, NOW this poem is completely finished and perfect” feeling. I honestly don’t know how published poets do it, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that one of my poems is good/finished enough to submit for publishing–this class’ portfolio is intimidating enough! Does anyone else feel this way or am I just crazy?

Criticism Eyes vs. Enjoyment Eyes

I often think that our reading eyes have two modes: criticism and enjoyment. When we read a published book of poetry or a piece by a famous poet, it usually doesn’t even cross our minds to think of revising it. Even in class when we read poets’ works in Lyric Postmodernisms, we may challenge the artist’s statement, but we never suggest how the poems could be improved. This is because we are using our “enjoyment eyes”. When we read works like this, we often are just seeking to find some pleasure or sense of understanding. Even when reading for class, The Logan Topographies for example, we seek meaning in the poem and question its contrasting aspects, but we never make suggestions for changing the poems. I wonder why exactly this is. In workshop, we are clearly using our “criticism eyes”. We read our peer’s poetry to seek understanding as well, but it seems the main goal is to figure out how the person can better it in some way. Sometimes we may not even want to provide revisions, but feel compelled to tell the person to change something. Is this simply because we know that is what we’re supposed to do in workshop? Because we know we’re being graded on it? I wonder, then, why we don’t view other published poetry this way. Is it because we aren’t in contact with the author? Because we know they probably wouldn’t care even if we did give them suggestions? It may seem like an obvious distinction, but I’m wondering if anyone else has thought of this. Thoughts?

Art and Poetry Exercise

As many of us have discussed lately, both in class and on the blog, poetry often intersects with a variety of other art forms. We become inspired by art or mimic it in our poetry.

Try writing a poem about a piece of artwork. It could be a painting, sculpture, movie, song, etc.

An extra challenge: use language specific to the type of art that you’re describing (art/music jargon, etc.)

This exercise incorporates our 5 senses into poetry in ways that may not always be present or obvious. It also causes us to think about what separates different forms of art.