Upon Being Asked If I Were a Poet
UPON BEING ASKED IF I WERE A POET
In the traditional sense I am not so much a poet as I am a dreamer. I
don’t consider myself to be a writer of any consequence. I’m not such a good
storyteller and I’m not particularly well-spoken. I am neither noticeably
introspective nor extroverted. I am not an intellectual as I’m not especially
intelligent. I don’t mill around with the academic crowd and I’m not
I’ve attended one wine tasting in the entirety of my life and on that
occasion I stumbled drunk (from rum not wine) upon it and was strongly
encouraged to leave. Had they asked for my thoughts on the wine they so
proudly served I would have told them, without hesitation, that it had an
aroma of unclean ass.
I am not specifically gifted or even talented. The truth of the matter is
that, aside from one redeeming characteristic, I am quite unremarkable. That
characteristic is passion … I am, if nothing else, passionate. I am passionate
about the things that are important to me thus I am passionate about writing.
And so, in my humble and unsolicited opinion, if what is written lacks
passion it is not much worth reading.
Passion, in my estimation, is what makes one a poet. It is not a matter of
education. It has little to do with whether or not one is well read of the
established writers or has received awards and been deemed “worthy” of
recognition. It certainly has no relation to outward appearances … how one
looks in a black turtleneck sweater … smoking a pipe … sporting facial hair.
Rather, I think that it has much more to do with the stirring and expression of
On the rare occasion that I’m asked to give advice on writing poetry I
illustrate my point by asking a few questions of my own. Like, “… when you
write do you feel anything? … do you feel sad? … have you ever wiped away
tears as you wrote? … laughed? … became angry?” If the answer is yes then
there you are a poet, if no then you are merely a writer.
So am I a poet? Come to think of it … I suppose I am. Who’s to say I’m
not? And you are a poet if you believe and feel that you are. Indeed I am a
poet … of sorts. I’m a poet of the heart, as are many others, and there
shouldn’t be any other kind.
I am inspired … thus I write. I am inspired by the smallest of things; an
imperfect smile, an oddly shaped tree, the memory of my Uncle Billy and his
hearty laughter, the feeling of breath on skin, a sunburdened road that winds
its way through and past the lives of the downtrodden.
I am inspired by things that are taken for granted … by simple idiosyncratic
gestures and yes, of course, by monumental acts of giving … unconditional
giving of oneself to another … I am inspired by these things … I am moved …
by the mystery of God, by the cracked and worn photographs of old black
men on porches of wooden homes in disrepair, by the smell of sawdust after
rain and the scent of “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific” shampoo in her hair on
a summer Neshoba evening, by tiny sandcrabs on the beaches of the Gulf of
Mexico and their futile but mighty efforts to go … where?
I have only to look toward the heavens for inspiration and there I often find it
… not upon the stars but between them … where life is nearly if not surely
unbearable ... yet some valiant creature is there fighting to sustain it … I find
inspiration in such places.
Inspiration is not scarce yet it is as hard to hold on to as air, always brushing
our faces either stingingly or soothingly. It is among us and about us.
Inspiration surrounds us and presents itself to us in varying shapes, forms,
flavors, fragrances, sights, sounds and touches . It is in the form of men who,
without hesitation, confront evil and conquer the doers of such evil … it is in
the form of heroism and bravery exhibited daily by those charged with our
security and serenity.
Inspiration is plentiful. I find it everywhere I go; among the living and among
the dying; among the young and the old, in kind and caring hearts and in the
eyes of the disillusioned.
I am plentifully inspired; by the vastness and the greatness. I am deeply
inspired by the wide-eyed wonderment of a child and the accompanying
trust. Inspiration comes and goes … it is fickle … it appears at untimely
moments but is never unwelcome.
I am warmed by inspiration, driven by it, even moved to tears by it. I’m
inspired by a rare Mississippi snow, by a freshly cut and lined baseball field,
by a sunrise viewed from a deer stand deep in the woods of Kemper County,
by her youthful exuberance and unsolicited love (even though she says it isn’t
so), by moments of clarity when things suddenly make sense and by that look
… that look that defies description … that is beyond words. Thank you, child
… thank you, girl … thank you, world … for inspiration.