It’s my least favourite question because I don’t really have an answer. I have very supportive friends who sometimes introduce me to people as a poet and in most cases those people smile and nod; some back away and others ask what kind of poet I am. I never know what to say.
My favourite follow up to that initial question is, “Are you a modern poet?” I had to bite my tongue to not respond that I wasn’t at all modern and was, in fact, a time-travelling Victorian poet. I think that question was actually code for “Does your poetry rhyme?” and my answer to that is that sometimes it does - and sometimes even at the end of the line in a regular pattern - but sometimes it doesn’t.
Other people might ask cautiously if I write personal poetry; I think this might relate to the popular image of the doomed poet and they’re really asking if I’m obsessively grieving over a doomed love affair, about to die of consumption, or perhaps one step away from putting my head in the oven. I think that’s why people sometimes back away and to be honest, were any of those to be the case, I wouldn’t blame them. So again, the answer is sometimes I write personal poetry and sometimes I don’t.
Another response I get is that people tell me I don’t look like a poet. I don’t really know what to say to that because I don’t really know what a poet is meant to look like. To be honest, I’m pretty lazy about my appearance, I live in jeans and you’ll prise the Doc Martens off my cold, dead (comfortable) feet. If I have an hour to get ready for a night out, chances are pretty high I’ll read for most of that hour and then grab whatever is clean ten minutes before I have to leave. Sometimes I wish I could look more like a poet, more romantic and ethereal, maybe, but sometimes I think of whatever book I’m reading and I’ll want to spend time doing that a lot more than I want to do my hair.
So what kind of poet am I? One who loves history and legend but can be inspired by the modern world, one who writes about political and social issues and sometimes discovers personal stories woven into the work. In short, one who loves words and puts that love first – all the time.