Confessions of an Imposter: on writing poetry but not calling yourself a poet

OR, a poetic rumination on not being able to poetically ruminate on the poetry that needs rumination


There are few things as intimidating as the blank page.

There’s that deadline, over there, in that tidy production schedule I made myself, in the sticky notes on my desk, in the folds of my planner—but there’s also that giddy-nagging-stubborn voice that, suddenly, requires color-coding and demands needless organization and just really loves resistance.

(The perfectionist in me would rather spend twenty five hours writing a paper than fifty minutes writing a blue book exam.)

And when I put pen to paper—and pause and think about finally taking out the trash or picking up the trombone or starting a blog or doing anything, everything that’s not writing poetry—I’m overwhelmed by Imposter Syndrome.  

Maybe it’s because there’s this expectation that poems flow naturally from fountain pens, in cursive that’s equal parts cryptic and legible, in tattered black leather notebooks, at three o’clock in the morning. Maybe it’s because every word matters more than it should; I expect precision, dislocation, metaphors so deep they’ll dig rivers and solve droughts and provide clean drinking water. Maybe it’s because this kind of self-pressure only begets cliche.

Or, maybe it’s because I’ve never had the guts to call myself a “poet.”

There are few things as intimidating as the blank page that should have poetry on it.

The last time I tried to write poetry on demand, I was sitting on a patch of lichen some three thousand feet above the highways of Maine, watching the counties unfold like board games below me. It was hard, but it was easier: poetry flows more readily on mountainsides, stripped of oxygen but full of adrenaline. Profundity increases with elevation gain; jaws drop farther with gravity.

But Michigan is flat. Mount Brighton is actually just a heap of trash masquerading as a snowboarding destination. The only mountain I see is my capstone project, jagged summit and hailstorm and all.

So this Imposter needs a Muse, I suppose, a place that compels poetry—a place at the intersection of discomfort and home, like tree roots or blinding sunshine or docks just dampened by rain.

Either that, or I need to remember what it is to live without a backspace. This journal is an exercise in re-training a (stream-of-)conscience, an ode to chicken scratch, a statement of lilty imperfection.

Because there are few things as exhilarating as mountains, as disguises, as the possibility of the blank page.

One thought to “Confessions of an Imposter: on writing poetry but not calling yourself a poet”

  1. Stina – first of all, I am thoroughly impressed with your writing. If your project contains the same metaphors, creativity, and thoughtfulness, I think you will be on your way to creating an excellent poetry collection and capstone project.

    In terms of imposter syndrome, I can definitely relate to the feelings you expressed above. For example, when I received the news that my research was accepted for an oral presentation at the upcoming Pediatric Research Symposium on campus, one of my first questions was, how many people submitted their work? That is, was my work selected by default? I had never heard of “imposter syndrome” until today in class, but it seems I have definitely experienced it.

    Perhaps we will both move towards overcoming such feelings by completing our capstone projects!

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