I graduated with an MFA four years ago. During the program, I concentrated on poetry.
But sometime between then and now, I quit thinking of myself as a poet.
I’m not sure why.
Maybe it was all the rejections. I’m in the hundreds now.
After so many people tell you you’re not good enough, you start to think you’re not good enough.
Maybe it was all the comparisons. I know a lot of great poets. Superb poets. Poets I want to be.
But I am not them. I am me.
And I am a poet.
I dusted off some old poems recently and sent them out.
I got a couple of acceptances within the week.
I also got a couple of rejections within the week.
But when it comes to writing, acceptances and rejections don’t cancel each other out. Writers know that for every acceptance, there were ten rejections. I was just talking to someone about how often I deal with rejection, with that fear that someone will say no. It messes with your psyche sometimes. So every time someone says yes, it’s a moment to celebrate.
When you’re a writer, you’re often your only cheerleader. There may not be anyone else telling you that your writing is good, or that it has potential. It can be exhausting to be writer and editor and pep-talk giver and encourager. But sometimes that’s what the writing life is like. You get used to it.
I cannot keep being intimidated by all the better poets. I cannot keep persuading and convincing myself that maybe my work is okay.
So here I am, saying it out loud: I am a poet.
My poetry may not the best stuff out there, but it is mine, and it is good.
My words have a mark to leave on the world.
This weekend I pulled together all my decent poems. I sat on the floor with stacks of words around me, and I put poems in an order that felt right.
This weekend I submitted a poetry chapbook to a contest for the first time ever.
A month ago, I would never have thought that putting together a chapbook was even a possibility for me. I don’t have enough poems for a full length work of poetry, but I found that I have enough for a chapbook. Part of me thinks I was rash, and I should have given it more time and thought. But another part of me thinks that I’ve sat around for far too long bemoaning how terrible I am. It’s time for me to kick out of whiny mode and believe in myself.
I am poet. Hear me roar.