Seven ways to be a poet

I’ve never had much patience with people who want to be poets. If you’re not driven by the desire to write poetry, and to explore the world and your own mind in so doing, then get the fuck out — that’s been my mindset. But lately I’ve been thinking that there are exemplary poets out there whose life choices are worth studying and emulating, because in fact being a poet in a society that largely rejects poetry isn’t always easy. Both Luisa Igloria and I have written poems here with the title “How to be a poet”: me in 2011, quite facetiously, and she in 2015. But today I want to share a few videos of poets reflecting on their manner of being in the world.

1. Allen Ginsberg

“Turn north — I should hang up all those pots on the stovetop — Am I holding the world right?”


2. Tyree Daye

“I don’t want a preaching poet, you know what I mean? I want my poets to be flawed, to not know the answer.”


3. Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

“Two things are required: commitment and love. … Because we are not alone. I am not just myself; I have many centuries behind me.”
(Click on the CC icon for English subtitles.)


4. January Gill O’Neil

“Wanting it too much invites haste. You must love what is raw and hungered for.”


5. Mazen Maarouf

“I feel that I cannot be astonished by anything, and I lost this a few years ago, because I still remember so many parts of the wars. The traces of beauty that I just pick up from life are enough.”


6. Kyle Metcalf

“Most people think that I’m an auto mechanic. I’m not actually an auto mechanic at all.”


7. TJ Dema

“I know I can be the girl I am right now, live the life I have right now.”

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