What It Means To Be A Poet by Chris Murray

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if poetry is a means of escape or expression. My answer is always the same: why does it have to be one or the other? I’ve used poetry to simultaneously escape from identities that I’ve been given without question and express ones that I have come to hold close to me.

There are many stereotypes surrounding poets. I fit the shy, reserved, wears a lot of dark colors, poet. In other words, I’ve never been good at saying important things out loud. But as cliché as it sounds to say, I found my own voice through poetry and now I can’t stop yelling exactly what I want to say. Charles Bukowski says it best in his poem “So You Want to be a Writer.”

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket…

Poetry is something that you (or at least I) do in the complete absence of self-love. It’s what happens when I need to take something that will make me remember why I like being a part of the human race. Yes, poetry has helped me figure out all of these identities that society has forced on me, but more importantly it has helped me escape that same society. As Bukowski says, poetry is something that comes rushing out of you. When I write I’m trying to upset someone. I once had a professor that told me if your poem doesn’t piss someone off, you’re not doing it right, because you’re not writing what you really want to say. Poetry has always been what I really want to say but what I can’t make my voice loud enough to speak. The answer too is poetry and escape or expression is not a simple one because poetry is not simple. It’s dark, dangerous, disgusting, and above all, rewarding.

If you think you’re bad at writing poetry, if it comes to you easily, you will never be bad at it. As long as you have something to say, whether it’s going to make someone angry, sad, happy, scared, as long as you have something to say, you should write it. I used to think no one listened to me because I was too quiet. It wasn’t until I put pen to paper (or nowadays fingers to keyboard) that I realized I could scream and yell and laugh just as loud as anyone else.

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