Once upon a time, by which I mean 2006 , when I was habitual lurker and part time scold on Slate's now defunct poetry forum Poems Fray there was an especially obtuse and truth-challenged participant who persisted in saying naive and empty headed things about poets and their poems no matter how severely he's ridiculed, corrected, verbally stomped. I won't go into details as to what this person did that was dishonest, incorrect,disingenuous or otherwise offensive . We would be here all day. Not actually , mind you, but let us say that the memory of what this fellow said and presented himself as, under the flimsiest of online disguises, makes my capacity for a catchier metaphor presently nonexistent. But first I might want to own my own conceits and venture a guess to this fellow's motivation to remain in the company of other poetasters who couldn't stand his presence; we were a smug bunch, in fact, despite no lack of brains or wit. Being intelligent is not an automatic gateway to a winning,accepting personality. Perhaps that was this creature's motivation to keep burrowing in under the self satisfying veneer of our discussions. You know the sort, the little man with the steroid ego who for reasons only God or Homeland Security understand has a habit of internalizing every truism, cliche and new age adage they come across, creating a moldy stew of babble they might think they can get loose women with. It's crazy making. He added this at an especially exasperating point:
To be a Poet, you must be a Dreamer, for Poetry is the product of our hopes and aspirations.
To be a poet, it helps if one stops making Absolute Statements about what a poet must be or what one thinks is required for a poem to be valid. Above remarks like that make you sorry that anyone spoke highly of Universal Literacy.All a poet needs is a talent for the craft, an interesting way wit the language, and an openness to let the poem they're writing assume a form that is not strained, or made to conform to some specious and dubious requisites ; poetry made to do so is often turgid, vapid, bombastic, myopic and finally gutless when it comes to delivering the goods that the results of good poetic art should, that sound of surprise, the unexpected perception, that inexpressible feeling caught in terms of the unforgettable.It helps as well if one who desires to write good poet not address themselves as Poets, with a capital "P",lest they mistake themselves for priests, seers, mystics, oracles and all other manor of shaman whose existence is of use only to comic book writers or fakes and layabouts who find the personage a handy way to circulate their malarkey for yet another go around.
Finally, it 's useful for a poet to remember that what one has actually experienced in the world and how one brings order, sense, and irony to their stories is better grounds for poetic inspiration than "hopes and aspirations alone" which, truth be told, tend to be more or less the same, with minor variations . The real work of poets is to bring their skill as writers to work through the contradictions, u-turns, diversions and unexpected changes they experience while on their way to achieve their ideal circumstances. Life is what happens when you're making other plans. The poet who wishes to be good needs to slough off dubious advice from poetasters and instead improve their writing. Otherwise, there poetry is more message than message, more arch than artful, a string of cliches executed with the precision only the dull witted and easily trained can manage.