Recently I heard a poet on a podcast say that he never calls himself a poet. He said a poet is what he wants to be more than anything, but he prefers to let other people use the word because he feels it's pretentious to use it himself. Who was the poet? I have no idea; I thought I could find the quote again and didn't write it down. I did learn, while hunting for the podcast, that there are many poets who feel sheepish about using the word; here's an article that discusses the idea.
To me, it's all right to use the word "poet" about yourself if you write poetry. You aren't saying you're a great poet or even a good one; you're simply saying that you write poetry. I do, so I'm a poet. Just as I call myself a reader because I read and a mother because I have children and a walker because I walk, I call myself a poet because I write poetry.
Even so, it's nice when others think of me as a poet, and I had an experience like that last week. A friend commented that something that had just happened was symbolic and then she added, "Ruth will probably write a poem about it." (You'll have to take my word for it that she didn't say this in a mocking way but sounded as though she'd actually like to read such a piece.) In fact I had already made a note in my head that this event would be a great topic for a poem. Later I took the note from my head and wrote it down on my phone, and it's a good thing because otherwise it might have gone the way of the quote from...whoever that guy was who doesn't call himself a poet.
Earlier this summer I listened to this podcast, an interview with Michael Longley. It has lots of great stuff in it, but one of the parts I enjoyed most was when he talked about going to his cabin, a place called Carrigskeewaun, where he's been going regularly since 1970.
Krista Tippett said, "I want to ask you also about the mystery of place. And so,
Carrigskeewaun is a cottage in County Mayo that you and your wife and
family have gone back to it, I believe, for over many years. And you
said something wonderful about the beauty of going back to the same
place over and over again, that you notice more and more. It’s not that
you exhaust a place; that you go more deeply into it."
Longley responded, "Yes, it’s inexhaustible. Mind you, it is very beautiful, and it’s
very remote. And we’ve been going there since 1970. And we carried our
children through the river and through the channel, and now they come
back over — such a compliment to my wife and me that the children want
to spend time with us. And they come back, and they now bring their
children, our grandchildren on their shoulders through this really quite
tough terrain. Every time I leave, I think, 'Well, there can be no more
Carrigskeewaun poems. I’ve exhausted it.' But there always are poems,
and the place is inexhaustible. I mean, you know this — the phrase, 'Travel broadens the mind.' We do
quite a bit of traveling. But I think it also shallows the mind. But
going back to the same place in a devoted way and in a curious way is a
huge part of my life. And I’ll be going there even when they have to
push me in a wheelchair."
(Listen to the rest here.)
I've so enjoyed traveling this summer, back to places I've been many times. I didn't realize how much I needed some things to look at that were separate from my usual life in Haiti. I love Haiti deeply, and it is home, but I needed a break, and I'm thankful I've been able to have one. (Plus you may have seen in the news that things have been sort of difficult there this summer. I don't take my privilege for granted. There are plenty of people in Haiti who needed a break this summer way more than I did and who didn't get it, but instead got trouble and a worsening of their already challenging lives.) Going somewhere new would have been great too (and I did do some of that), but it was wonderful to go to some familiar places, places I already love, inexhaustible places.
Here's a poem I wrote about the cabin in 2011. It's about fall, a time I haven't ever been there, so I was just going from photos and descriptions and imagination.
Morning at the Cabin, September 2011
Mug of coffee in hand
He sits back on his rocking chair
And watches this day arrive.
He has a front row seat.
Each tree, each blade of grass
And each invasive cattail
Takes its place for the performance to begin.
He holds his breath.
Has anyone read this play?
Can anyone say what will happen next?
Perhaps a deer will enter,
Perhaps a squirrel.
Some leaves are reddening.
All the elements are in place
For a drama.
All that's needed is time to stare
And that, he has.
He takes a sip of his coffee.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
I wouldn't put that poem on the same level as anything that Michael Longley has written, but is it a poem? Yep. And did I write it? I sure did. So do I call myself a poet? You bet I do.
There will be more poems from the cabin; it's inexhaustible. I came away with a whole list of ideas. They will give me memories and poems for the whole year.
Bonus: I wrote this post about the cabin in 2012.
Here's today's roundup.
19 minutes ago