As a creative, you tend to hear the same things said to you over and over again. It gets to the point where you can predict what someone will say when you tell them about what you do. It can be pretty annoying. If you’re a poet/spoken word artist, then you’ll particularly relate to the following list of comments non-creatives tend to make.
“So what else do you do?”
How many times have you heard this one? Honestly, I get this one almost every time I meet someone and tell them I’m a poet. The irritating thing about this comment is that the person assumes you need a ‘real’ job (read 9 to 5) in order to pay the bills and put food on the table because to them, poetry just doesn’t pay. OK so in many cases they might be right and you probably do have another hustle to get by from. The Arts and Entertainment scene is still growing here in Kenya and being an artist, in general, isn’t as profitable as it should be. However, some poets actually do make a living from their craft and get by just fine. Plus it’s not like they would ask an accountant what else they do for a living.
When someone reads or hears your pieces. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to hear or read someone compliment your creative work, but when it’s the only thing they have to say, it doesn’t really help much now does it. Poets and artists, in general, appreciate constructive criticism and insight into what is actually nice about their art more than they appreciate simple comments like, “Nice,” “Dope,” “I like this.” If I share something with you, help a brother out and give me your honest opinion on what works and what doesn’t. Help me get better.
“Oh, you’re a poet? Say something.”
What else do you want me to say? Do you want me to perform on the spot for you? Drop some smooth rhymes for you and make you feel some typa way? Do you ask a chef to make you a five-course meal right there in the middle of the street? Do you think the words I spend days (OK, mostly nights) stringing together on paper can be uttered at any given moment, in any given instances, under any given circumstances? No? Then please don’t ask. And do you have Spoken Word Performance money? No? oh okay.
“I can’t have you performing when my girlfriend/boyfriend is around again.” (laughs)
I don’t even know how to deal with this one really. I’ve heard this one a few times after performing love poems and I can understand that it’s meant as a compliment but it kind of leaves me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Thanks for the compliment but I didn’t perform that piece to hit on your girl or make her feel some way about me – at least not her specifically. I’m not looking to be the cause of any drama in your relationship, and not to diss you or anything, but that comment makes you seem insecure. But again, thanks for the compliment.
“Do it for the exposure.”
This one. You knew this one would be on the list as soon as you read this post’s title, didn’t you? We’ve all heard this more times than we can count, haven’t we? Does exposure pay your bills? Does your significant other appreciate that you’re getting paid in exposure? Can you treat them to something nice and pay with those little exposure notes? Does your mat conductor or Uber driver accept payment in the currency that is exposure? Can you take exposure to the bank? What’s the current dollar rate on exposure? Money can’t buy happiness, but can exposure do so?
OK, enough with those questions you get the point. Now exposure can be great and is important when you’re starting out, trying to get your name out there, building a following, and making a brand out of yourself. You need it then, but after a while – after you feel you’re relatively established – it gets really tiresome to hear such requests. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be a career path you’ve chosen and not just a cool part-time hobby. Any form of work deserves adequate, monetary compensation and so, in the words of the great philosopher of our time, Rihanna, “Bih better have my money!”
Do you have any phrases you’ve heard over and over again as a poet that you’re tired of hearing which isn’t on this list? Share them with us in the comments and let’s discuss them.