A poet is someone who has to exist between those moments. And between those moments you don’t feel like a poet.

Christian Wiman in his interview with Bill Moyers:

“You are filled and then you’re not. A poet is someone who has to exist between those moments. And between those moments you don’t feel like a poet. It’s been two months since I’ve written a poem and I don’t feel at all like a poet. It goes away. You’re just a person going about your life like anyone else. The gift seems not yours. It seems on loan. Whereas with prose you can do that anytime. You can crank that out.”

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8 thoughts on “A poet is someone who has to exist between those moments. And between those moments you don’t feel like a poet.

  1. Just substitute “poet” with “painter” and it applies to me. It is so, so true. You never feel as if you own it. You work at a job to pay the bills and no one you work with knows who you really are.

  2. i know that feeling exactly. and another thing about being a poet is finding just the right way to word something, which happened in that quote as well.

    i always say that nobody is really a poet and nobody writes poems. poems write themselves through someone who has an experience that needs to be shared.

    • I’m trying to steal your readers Jacobsen. Both of them. Zing.

      I think you believe a poet should be writing all the time. That he can’t just be a poet when he feels inspired. And I’d agree with you. However, when you’re dying of cancer, I think you can be a poet when ever you want to be. I’m fascinated by Christian Wiman because he speaks out of suffering and I have this notion, a probably false one, that those who speak out of suffering have something deep and wise to say about life and maybe God.

  3. I have at least 50% more readers than that. Anyway, I agree with most of what you’re saying. If Wiman had just used “I” every place he used “you” it would be a lot clearer. Because I think he’s talking about himself, but the second person makes it unavoidably general. And most poets can’t just wait for inspiration, and most prose writers can’t just crank it out any time, even if Wiman can.

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