I have always found it – and even now find it – very difficult to call myself a poet or call my writings poems. (Which is why I most often refer to them as writings, pieces, verse, etc.) While I cannot say exactly where my reluctance stems from, I suspect it has to do with my ideas about both poetry and poets.
An old witticism says: “It’s very easy to be a poet. All you have to do is be born.” This, of course, is a play on words and alludes to the fanciful-but-established idea that a “poet is born not made” or that true poetry is the creation of “born poets”.
Perhaps it is because I did not write my first ‘real’ poem until I was about twenty or because I am cognizant that what I write is seldom the result of “inspiration” or because it is my great desire “to write like I was heaven-touched” – in any case, I have always found it hard to call myself a poet given what I have heard and read (and myself believe) about truly great poetry being a gift from something or somewhere beyond ourselves. More recently, the sublime Kannada poetry of Da Ra Bendre and his firm belief in the “otherwordliness” of its origin has only made it harder for me to call myself a poet and what I write poetry.
And yet – there have been times (since I began to write some ten years ago) when lines have “come to me”; when a matter of thought has swirled around in my gut for ever so long before emerging as a fledgling poem; when I have simply played with rhyme and rhythm and the language to create a kind of “happy-go-lucky” musical poetry. (Or, more recently, when I have taken an idea and worked to give it the form of a poem.)
I will close by invoking Bendre, one of the greatest lyric poets to have lived. The story goes that Bendre, already a living legend, was engaged in answering the questions of a group of school children. One among them, a young girl, made bold to ask, “ajja, how many poems do I need to write to become a poet(ess)?” to which Bendre is supposed to have asked, “tangi, how many children do you need to bear to become a mother?”
It is a comfort to me to be able to say that I have birthed at least one poem.