This weekend, I sent in a poem. Paid my $3 reading fee and sent a poem to a stranger for them to examine and deem worthy or unworthy for inclusion in their journal.
It’s a game that I’ve played very sporadically this year. A carousel of half-mouthful fees and six week waiting periods that more often than not end in rejection-silence. This is one of the definitions of a poet in the modern age.
Another definition is the spoken word poet—maestro of the open mic, word wizards—speak the world to me but only in 2-5 minute clips because more than that starts to feel masturbatory and I do not need to be there while you pleasure yourself on stage.
I admire them though, the slam poets. Sometime comedians, oftentimes philosophers, as an analyst I can pin their words to a page and make my pen into a scalpel but they… these poets of light and eye and long, long lungs sing life and blood into black ink. It is a skill, honed and honest, and one that I admire.
That is another definition of poet today.
Other poets are on Twitter—sending doses of verse out into a world, 280 characters at a time.
More poets still attend workshops in beautiful places for a week, maybe two. They sit in circles with strangers and offer bloodless critiques sandwiched between compliments, polite because we need strangers to like us for evolutionary reasons we cannot wrap words around. It takes longer than seven days for this evolutionary need to be trampled, in most circles, longer before brutal truth can be used and honest critiques made.
Some poets lurk in pubs, cafes, libraries, and lecture halls.
Some poets pass a pair of girls on North Main St—16 if they’re a day—carrying a pink cylinder playing Ed Sheeran for each other and every person they pass. A parody of a ‘90s stereotype I know existed but never saw because I did not live in a neighborhood where the boys carried boomboxes down the sidewalk, though I know those neighborhoods existed.
A skilled poet might take that. They could draw a line between the two, wax and wane on the universality of youth and song and the joy found in youth and song, no matter the decade, no matter the place.
A scribe with more finesse might write that poem and send it to a magazine or slam it on a stage or boil it down to a microcosm of words that could bring the cracking earth together for one, unbroken beat.
But I am not that kind of poet.
Not yet, at least.
I am the kind of poet who pays a stranger $3, and sends them a poem, and whispers a prayer.