remember in a nameWhy does it matter? My lover writes, but does not call herself a writer. Dismisses it, and simply writes. She knows not to complicate. Labels can be dangerous things.
caught up as we were in more primitive aims
back there in our many beginnings
— bpNichol, The Martyrology, Book 5
Any definition, essentially, becomes self-definition. Poetry is not all I do, so have kept clear from naming myself “poet.” It doesn’t help the sneer the culture cross-bred, creating disdain, even irrelevance with the term. What does it mean, “poet”? When I was at the University of Alberta as writer-in-residence, I found myself repeatedly contradicting people, arguing. Not the “poet” in residence, say. Why does it matter?
If I call myself anything based on what I spend most of my time doing, I’d be “sleeper” or “tv watcher.” I write reviews, essays, poems, fiction, non-fiction, letters. I organize readings, book fairs, talks. I edit and publish. I read comic books, watch television, spend time with my daughter, stare out the window. Walk aimless but in a straight line.
I prefer the term “working writer,” a literary equivalent, perhaps, of what my father has done in his decades of farming. A jack of all trades, as needed.
In August 2007, I had a shirt made for my upcoming Alberta year that said “writer,” unable or unwilling to afford the dollar-a-letter that would have made up “writer in residence.”
I gave her that t-shirt before I left town, knowing I’d see her again. Knowing she would wear it, if only in her sleep.