It's so embarrassing
A silly essay about being a #poet
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It’s Embarrassing To Be a Poet, Really
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than being a poet.” - Elizabeth Bishop, The Paris Review
That article is behind a paywall so I didn’t read the whole thing and just pulled the quote from Instagram. *shrug*
It’s embarrassing to be a poet, really. People either take you too seriously or don’t take you seriously at all. A lot of poets take themselves too seriously.
I got booked to read at an event recently and they promised poetry that would be a “feast for the senses.” I don’t know if they looked up anything about me and my work before they booked me.
“Normal” people often imagine poets as modern-day prophets, keyed into some mystical know-how about processing emotions about the Unprecedented Times(™) we’re living in. A lot of poets capitalize on this image.
People rarely imagine a petite blonde gremlin in boxers typing haikus about Scrappy Doo into the blue light of her phone in the middle of the night.
That image isn’t as romantic. But it’s certainly accurate. (At least about me.) Maybe poets can be both, though.
What else is embarrassing? Poetry dies at least once every 10 years. Sometimes it’s even more frequent if a cranky person (usually a grumpy elitist man rooted in academia) needs an article idea during National Poetry Month.
People thought it would die with the moon landing. (After all, that is a poet’s favorite subject.) Some are worried A.I. will be the end. (The Atlantic isn’t, though.)
Through it all, poetry sticks around like a weed. I say that fondly. Front lawns are a capitalist scheme and weeds are a natural part of the earth. But that’s a rant for another day.
Why doesn’t poetry die? What a rude question to ask. In response: Why didn’t at-home rentals kill the movie theater business? People like it.
The most embarrassing part of being a poet? FEELINGS. EMOTIONS. VULNERABILITY. All dressed up like a show pony.
We FEEL for a living. (Well, part of our living, for most of us who also have day jobs.) It’s devastating. Imagine if you made money from articulating your feelings “well”? What a weird job description that would be.
I recently got paid $500 for a poem about learning how to boil eggs at an embarrassing age. What?! (I’m thankful, but it’s a little ridiculous when you take it at face value.)
People don't know what to do with poets. A coworker (at a former job) asked me once “So do you just go home and write?”
No, I go home and drink. It’s called The Hemingway. (Not a poet, but stick with me.)
The way she asked made me feel like she would think that’s all I do if I said yes. But, also, yes is the answer.
On Tuesdays, anyway. I (usually) go home and write. On Saturdays, I’m typically writing at my favorite coffee shops around KC. I also have to answer emails, plan shows, curate social media content, research places to submit my work, and emotionally cope with publication rejections (of which there have been MANY).
Other days I read, bake, or watch TV. Recently I got super emotional binge-watching Mrs. Maisel with a sinus infection. (Lenny believed in her SO HARD even when she doubted herself!)
Some days I lose an embarrassing amount of time watching corgi reels on Instagram.
Still other days I put on my comedian cap and show up to open mics to see if I can make people laugh with some jokes I probably wrote in the car on the way to the venue.
But every day I am a writer. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Even on the days when my “process” looks like sitting on the floor eating chicken nuggets and watching Gilmore Girls for the 15th time.)
For my second newsletter of each month, I’m going to share what I’ve been reading and/or listening to lately!
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