“Can anyone help me become a poet?”
I’m a member of several groups for writers on Facebook—and this was a recent post in one of them. It struck me. I took this question (“Can anyone help me become a poet?”) as coming from a place of sincere desire to grow and hunger for art and artistry.
I clicked open the comments—I was so curious about what the advice would be.
Would they recommend great poets to read and get inspired by? Would they offer exercises, like free-writing or morning pages, to help unlock a boost of creativity? Would they tell stories of their own journeys as writers, about how hard they toiled over their craft?
To my dismay, most of the comments went something like:
- “You can’t teach talent.”
- “Talent is a gift—you’ve either got it or you don’t.”
- “In order to be a Real Writer, you have to have a natural, God-given talent, and if you don’t, you’ll never make it.”
As someone who has taught writing for years, this broke my heart.
Here was a person genuinely interested in learning the art and craft of poetry, and comments like these were completely shutting him down.
And this isn’t an isolated sentiment. The idea that talent is to be prized above all else has haunted almost every writing community I’ve been a part of—from groups and forums online, to undergraduate workshops, to the halls of my MFA program, to the students and writers I’ve worked with both on and off campus.