What is a Poet? Why is it not a Cinch for Poets to Dream in America?

Quote attributed to Saul BellowFrequently, I spend my lunch hour at the bookstore browsing magazines and books. Today was one of those days, and as a consequence I happened on the book, The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter. The title is an attention-grabber and that’s why I picked up the book. I read the jacket and skimmed the first few pages, my habit for determining if a book merits further reading. Within those pages, I discovered a quote attributed to author Saul Bellow, “Poets have to dream, and dreaming in America is no cinch.”

BAM! (nod to Emeril) It’s a staggering bit of verbiage. I filed the quote in my cerebral database and later deposited it on a piece of scrap paper littering my car. I deemed it worthy of exploration, and that’s what I intend to do here.

First, what is a poet? Well, you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the answers I found searching the World Wide Web. How does this answer suit you? A poet is a person who writes poetry. I hope you sighed, cursed, or blew a raspberry. One should never define a thing by using the thing to define it. How’s this? A poet is a person who writes verse. Okay, but so what? This is also a poor definition, but at least I have a basic understanding of what a poet does; however, I still do not know what a poet is. There is a difference!

A poet is a:

A poet gazes on her culture and critically assesses it in her verse. She affirms and strengthens cultural platforms that empower everyone. A poet is not an imitator, a trend setter, an embellisher, nor a poser. A poet is not aloof, disengaged, entitled, nor apolitical. A poet supports change for a free, just, and sustainable society. It’s with this understanding that we can appreciate “Poets have to dream,” as it’s our poets who most frequently dream of better tomorrows (life without war, poverty, abuse, discrimination, etc.).

Why is dreaming in America so difficult? I think dreaming implies change, and change is not something everyone is willing to embrace. Struggles with change are illustrated by recent US news headlines on the topics of healthcare reform, finance reform, immigration reform, education reform, etc. Opposition to reform is strong. This is not a bad thing; it just is. One should study Hegelian Dialectic to know that there will always be a series of philosophical conflicts before there is an evolution of some sort. In this world, patience is the ultimate virtue and without patience dreaming is no cinch.

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Found Poem – It’s Easy to Create Your Own

Create a Found Poem by turning the mundane into something interesting. Re-frame words, phrases, and whole passages found on a page of a book. Loving books as I do, I’d suggest you choose a book found on shelves at a thrift store. If someone didn’t love a book enough to keep it, it’s likely a good one to use for this project. Be creative. You don’t have to block out text like I did. Find a unique way to highlight the text you want as part of your Found Poem.

Found Poem
Versifying the Vanilla

This found poem reads as follows:

I am talking about
chains          of gold
chains all the same
interrupted          comfort and calm
to lose          us
not seeing          without any sense
this is almost incomprehensible
this fabric
It’s so difficult
a need of you.

The Shack, ISBN: 978-0-9647292-3-0
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1st edition (July 1, 2008)
Page 124

Related Posts:
Poetry – Senryu
Writing a List Poem
Writing Cinquains – Five Line Poems

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How to Write Senryu Poetry

Senryu poetry is very much like Haiku in that a Senryu is a short, unrhymed poem composed of 17 syllables or less and written in three lines. It’s not necessary to use the 5-7-5 syllabic structure, though you can. Senryu poems are usually humorous or cynical and they focus on relationships, work, and the everyday. Haiku tends to be more serious and typically about nature.

How to Write Senryu Poetry

I’ve written a few examples of Senryu poems for you to read.

Fatuous ideas (5)
in a Tiffany box, (6)
this e-mail from the boss. (6)

* * * * *

Anti-aging cream fails (6)
to erase many years – (6)
her gray reflection. (5)

* * * * *

Learn how others define Senryu poetry. Additional insight will help you write a better Senryu poem of your own. Give it a try. Let me know what you write!

You might also want to try writing a triolet.

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