And it's obvious that in our collective imagination, we got that image from poets like John Keats and Percy Shelley, Jim Morrison and John Lennon.
Half rebellious rock star, half tortured soul and all they want is to be loved... Right?
The fact is that out of the real poets I know, none are like that. Contemporary poets writing today are butchers, bookstore owners, human resource administrators, etc. They are married and instead of pining for a lost love, they flesh out the human story in so many other ways.
The contemporary poet has love, he has a support network. What the contemporary poet wants really is to be heard. The contemporary poet has a gift with words, has the ability to tell stories, to create dialogue, to, in the words of my mentor, “say the unsayable” and they want to share that because something within that is relevant to modern living.
Sure there are still some ivory tower poets, poets who are good with language, but great with relating to editors, publishers, and critics. These are poets who make their living as poets, who are fortunate enough to be able to talk poetry whenever they want and get paid well for doing so.
But they are so far removed from the working poet, the poet who spends 8 hours a day cutting meat or trying to entice readers to choose spine and pages and brick and mortar to wifi and digital. The working poet shoves papers in one direction and dreams about what he will write about when he gets home.
These working poets that I have particularly in mind are also currently working on non-poetry related projects. One is a playwright who has seen recent success in New York and one has been doing some delightful mixed media visual art.
Even I am working on a larger piece of prose.
So perhaps the profession of poet means adapting traditional pencil and paper, sentiment-based, verse composition methods of the past to the digital, entertainment-focused, prose-preferring world.
The Gutenberg press makes way for YouTube…
And even though everyone has a forum, everyone can write a blog, everyone posts on Facebook, poets still need to be heard.
I think less and less that poetry has to do with language today and more and more about communication.
And when I think about the real modes of communication I practice, it isn’t in the email reminders of who needs CPR trainings.
It isn’t in the notes I take during a meeting or the notes I make when I’m putting together a training or a lecture.
It isn’t even in Facebook posts about people I am missing nor is it really in this blog.
It’s in the consistent messages I send out with every other action I take that tells me and others what I need.
It’s in the promise that I make to myself that I will write daily, if for no other reason to say:
"I am here. I will be heard. You will remember this."