Michael T. Young and His Family L-R: Malia, Chandra, Ariel, Mike
Have you ever thought about what makes you feel successful as a poet? For many, getting poems and books published is the ultimate litmus test for success. But is it really?
I recently had the pleasure of reading a “poetry meditation” by my dear friend and fellow poet, Michael T. Young. His thoughts on the true measure of a poet’s success really resonated for me, and I thought they would be a great way to begin a new year on the blog—a great way to gain perspective on what is, and what should be, important to us as writers. Many thanks to Michael for his generous sharing.
Thoughts on a Poet's True Success
By Michael T. Young
Some thoughts for my fellow poets as we strive to publish our work: It can sometimes be discouraging when we get many rejections. So it’s important to keep a good perspective on where the actual success lies. Everything that comes after successfully writing the poem is not an achievement but a form of recognition of the achievement. That is the case with everything from acceptance for publication to winning a prize. Those forms of recognition are good, I might even say important, because they encourage us and allow us to be part of a larger conversation and community. In that recognition of the achievement, our judgment and achievement feel confirmed. But it is important to locate the actual success correctly, so we don’t mistake the trappings of recognition for the goal. When that happens, poets put more energy into marketing strategies and promoting their name and treat their work as a commodity, rather than focusing on the never-ending struggle to refine the work and achieve their vision and voice as a poet. Those poets might be more published but that doesn’t make them more successful. This is, in fact, why there is poor writing widely published. We live in a consumer culture and those market forces distort nearly every aspect of our society. Emily Dickinson was successful because she wrote visionary poetry and that took all her energy and focus. She didn’t spend time networking or building a platform. I’m not saying don’t publish and I’m not saying avoid wanting to publish, I’m saying: just remember where the actual achievement lies as you strive to publish.
About Michael T. Young
Michael T. Young's third full-length poetry collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His other two collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award from the New England Poetry Club. Michael has also received a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Arts Council, a William Stafford Award, and the Chaffin Poetry Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous print and online journals.