Juan Zuniga – Mejia
In school, students will grow up in their English classes studying famous poets such as Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Browning, and more. Poetry was never claimed to be an easy profession. Even in poetry’s prime, poets struggled to make a name and have their messages reach critics and readers.
Across the board, poetry is primarily viewed as a freelance job. Though the idea of working from the comfort of one’s home is always a dream, it is not a promising way of making income and paying the bills. Poetry is rather terrifying; a deep, wise, and powerful form of art and culture that is slowly fading away in the job market. So, the question is: how do you become a poet professionally?
Distressed about the difficulties in poetry writing as a career, I turned to Whittier College Professor of English Tony Barnstone. “I’m sorry to say that the news is not good,” Barnstone said. “It is one of the hardest things in the world to get paid for writing poetry. Most poetry venues do not pay you for publishing your work, and royalties are minimal. There is little money in it, so if you have to be a poet (and really a writer of any sort), it’s good to have a day job.” That is why most poets tend to become educators, editors, and other higher fields in the literary world. Some poets expand to become song writers, and others even make those charming greeting cards we pick up at the grocery store.
“Competition is fierce,” said Professor Barnstone. “Stubbornness and obsession are essential qualities for a writer because there is a long trial by fire before the good news starts coming in.” That goes out to all majors, careers, and goals across the board. Dreams do not come true by only wishing on the star in the sky; they come true by believing in the star inside. Resilience proves to be the strongest weapon when striving for passion, because there will always be someone with similar goals and probably a stronger background than yourself. Reaching your goals, as Barnstone said, “is a marathon, not a sprint, and your emotional cardio has to be strong.”
In a past interview with former Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky, Professor Barstone and alumnus Shawn Fitzpatrick asked Pinsky where he saw himself going, now that he had reached the zenith of his poetry career. “Career is a smaller thing,” said Pinksy. “Career is where you are employed, where you published your books, what prizes you’ve won… But the proper purpose of a career is not to please your parents, not to get your name in the paper or to enhance your own ego. It’s to enhance — or facilitate — your accomplishment of your life’s work. So, I have plans like everyone else, which, for me, means to be an artist.”
Growing up, I was told to follow my dreams. At the same time, I was also asked to find a good job that would help ‘pay for mama’s hot pool cleaner guy.’ Though poetry was never in my vision as a profession, it is a skill that I would like to hone and be respected for. Poetry is a kind of beauty that bares a balance in grace and courage. A poet can be discrete and blunt simultaneously in their platform, sharing their personal experiences and wisdom across the globe. Most modern poets begin their journey small by writing for magazines, online portfolios, and slowly spreading their name across the media network. That, fellow Poets, is where all dreams and career paths start.
In the end, nothing we chose may be easy. Nothing worth being is achieved through only half the work. A true career, a true profession, is best benefited from the passion for it. Strive to be passionate.