The Organized Poet

You might say the title is an oxymoron and here I am laughing because there is some truth to that. But if you want to be a poet, organization might be key to being recognized as one, or even to becoming a good one.

So you want to be a poet. Don’t tell just ANYONE!

Why not?

The last time I told someone I wrote poetry, I was invited to join a poetry slam. At the age of nineteen, I was the oldest person there. At judgement time, I was severely beaten by a nine year old girl, who did back handsprings while reciting some mean poetry of her own making. I, who had read off a list of interesting sounding but meaningless word associations, felt slightly humiliated.

There is stigma attached to being a poet. Just start asking people on the street. Some of them may tell you they do not like poetry. Some of these people will even be literate. Some of them will even be academics. Some will be young, others will be jaded. But it cannot be denied, there are some poetry haters out there.

So who CAN you tell? That depends. If you have a close friend or two, you could tell them.

Really, what is there to be gained by going about saying, “I’m a poet, look at me!” What is there to be gained in going about saying, “I’m an architect, look at me!”

Well, it turns out that if you omit the “look at me!” part, there may be much to be gained. First off, it might be an inspiration to those people who actually like poetry. You might start a wonderful conversation, and then maybe a friendship will blossom. Who can tell?

But this post isn’t about talking about being a poet, it’s about what you need to do to become a good one. Not just a poetry doodler, but a real poet.

1. Find a three-ring binder. DO NOT buy it if you can help it. There are so many three-ring binders out and about in the world already, that you can almost certainly find an unused one in a friend’s basement, or at the dump, or at your grandmother’s house if she’s still kicking.

2. Borrow a three-hole punch. Use the three-hole punch to punch three holes in many pages of white computer paper, discarded from a public-use printer. As many pages as will fit in the binder. The pages will be printed on one side, but you only need the one blank side anyhow. It’s a drag to use both sides, and this way you needn’t feel guilty about wasting paper.

3. Write a poem in ink using one hand.

4. With ink of a different color, make minor revisions.

5. Wait a while.

6. Rewrite the revised poem on the next blank sheet of paper, using your original ink.

7. As soon as you’ve rewritten it, doubtless there are some things you’d like to change.

8. With the ink of the different color, make minor revisions.

9. Wait a while.

10. Repeat steps 6-9 until you sense that the poem is done. You don’t want to destroy the poem, but you want every f***ing word to count.