Are poets born or made?
For age upon ages, people have argued about how people become poets. Some people say you have to be a born poet to create good poetry while others argue that anyone can become one.
Are people born with the perceptive and expressive power of poesy or is it like any skill that can be learnt?
For me, I believe a poet is made and yet born: A poet is born because the tools of he employs in gathering materials for his poetry are born with him – his eyes, nose, ears, and all the perceptive organs. However this same poet must make himself by learning how to transform what has been gathered into beautiful poetry.
In defining poetry and the poet, I once said:
“Poetry is a product of mental digestion — an evidence of consciousness, because the poet writes what is heard, seen, felt, perceived, foreseen or hoped. Thus, a poet is an individual of many perceptive tentacles, expressing ‘creatively’”
— DEFINING POETRY: WORD PROPHETS AND THEIR SPIRITS (Poetry College, 2015)
If we are to agree that poetry is a product of “mental digestion” and a poet is someone with “perceptive tentacles” who then goes ahead to “express creatively”, then we must also agree that any ‘normally-abnormal’ someone can be a poet.
However, to be a good poet, to create poetry that can be given attention is a different thing entirely. This is true because it poetry is ‘creative expression (in verse)’, not just expression of perceived ideas.
The element of ‘creative expression’ is thus what separates the poet from the ordinary person. If a person can learn to express creatively; embed meanings in words, using points where shares experiences converge; manipulate words and their meanings like a potter and his clay; create vivid images and transfer emotions with words; then that person can be a poet.
So you want to be a poet? It is easy.
Yes, starting to write poetry is simply deciding to express yourself, in verse. It is simple. You have seen, felt, heard, read about something; You have thought about something; You have a different view about something and you want to share it….
Talking/writing about something is something any gossip can do. But to express it in poetry, instead of just saying it, you look for metaphors to represent the ideas and you put them down in verse.
For example, someone writing about having a wet dream could say:
“I dreamt I was having sex with a beautiful, hairy woman.” That is all. Nothing interesting, nothing dramatic. Why should I give it more than a thought.
But a poet, a word-artist, might say:
have you survived
a dream of tangled legs
wrestling lips and attentive nipples
which stab bristly chest hair
as a wet bush path
welcomes a spitting cobra…
then you awake
to an undressed bed, a tortured pillow
and pants stuck to your under-jowls…
— Kukogho, MIDNIGHT LOST (unpublished)
To be a poet is to do more than just say. You go one mile further by describing, painting such that the poet sees what you saw, or at least a version of it.
Poetry makes an ordinary thought seem interesting by comparing it with something the reader is familiar with. In the poem below for example, I examined he issue of luck. Most people take belittles others’ successes claiming “she was lucky”. In the poem, I argued that it is not easy to utilize luck:
lazy people hope for luck
jealous people call Success “luck”
determined people manufacture luck
but luck is hot potato
only a few can catch it
and even fewer can hold it
— Kukogho, LOCK ON LOCK (unpublished)
If a very hot potato is suddenly falls near your hand, will you catch it or will it drop. If you catch it, with you drop it when you feel the temperature or hold on?
By simply writing in verse and connecting the ‘hot potato’ with luck, I argued my point in 6 architectured lines. Isn’t that beautiful?
See also this stanza from a poem about the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
who shall deny this wonder
of life milked from the tomb
that a man could wander
in… and turn grave to womb!
— Kukogho, CHAMBER OF RAPTURE (from I SAID THESE WORDS, 2015)
Without a mention of ‘Jesus’ or ‘rapture’, the whole story is told, capturing the miracle and the wander with ordinary words. In fact, the poem could be interpreted independent of the rapture connection.
As you continue writing (reading and perceiving), you get a relationship with words that let you create meanings without breaking sweat. Words become as familiar as cooking ingredients from which you can make various meals.
If you want to become a poet, start today. It is possible!
Author: Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
KIS, author of two poetry collections, ‘WHAT CAN WORDS DO?’ and ‘I SAID THESE WORDS’, is an award-winning Nigerian writer, photographer, and media professional with experience in journalism, PR, publishing and media management. In 2016, he was listed in Nigerian Writers Awards’ list of 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL NIGERIAN WRITERS UNDER 40. The same year 2016, he won the Nigerian Writer’s Award for ‘Best Poet In Nigeria 2015.’ he had also won the Orange Crush 1st Prize for Poetry in 2012.
He is the CEO of Words Rhymes & Rhythm LTD.