Despite the fact that my first ever "sale" (which was, in reality, two copies of the mag and a promise of an eventual token check that never showed, presumably because the magazine went under) was a poem, I am not a poet. I can, if need be, attempt poetry and even write some, but it remains a struggle for me. I suspect that poets probably find the idea of a five thousand word short story as daunting as I find a fifteen line poem, but that doesn't change the fact that I am not a poet.
This was brought home to me the other day as I was listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" this weekend. They were doing a poetry show, featuring a collection of their poetry related vignettes. One of the guests they'd had on - whose "Marco Polo" poem I'd heard the first time it aired - was Billy Collins, national poet laureate. Before he read his poem "Ballistics," he talked about where the idea for the poem had come from.
As I listened to him, it dawned on me that this is why I am not a poet. I'm not saying I don't strive for a certain poetic quality in my prose, because I do, but that's not the point. If I see something, or hear something, or experience something that inspires me, that trips my muse, the thoughts in my head are not poems. They're stories, or articles (or blog entries) - something in prose.
For artists, I presume they see pictures. I've heard musicians say they hear lyrics or notes, depending. So this is something that probably should not have been a surprise to me, but as I've been reading a bit more poetry these days my thoughts had turned in that direction. I've been tempted of late to try my hand at another poem, if only because I think it's a good writing exercise, yet haven't come up with anything that is setting off the poetry muse for me. And despite that one sale, it's probably for the best. Because even if this little train of thought hadn't reminded me why I don't write more poetry, a quick look at some of my past efforts would probably have sufficed.
But if something does occur to me in verse, I will be sure to write it down.