Friday, April 6, 2007

from November 2005 "On Writing Poetry - Part I"

I am overly competitive. To a fault. Part of the problem was that this trait served me well while in the academic world: I excelled in the classroom and received a lot of praise for my accomplishments. And despite a late start, it propelled me in athletics. I was not the most skilled player, but I sure wanted to be and I wanted to win. Still do.

I struggled, because of my competitive nature, with my husband’s continuing education once I had graduated from college. After four hard years of study, he finally finished medical school. People would ask me, “What does your husband do?” And I would reply, “He just graduated from medical school.” I couldn’t actually call him a doctor. What, like he was smarter than me?

I’ve come around on this by now, six years later. But I still struggle with my own identity. Especially since I am not currently employed and stay at home with my three children (the ages three and under). I don’t want “mother” to be my only identity because it sets me up to only find value in myself based on their “performance.” (But this is another diatribe for another day.)

This summer, at a 4th of July picnic, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. “What do you do?” another picnicker asked her. She replied matter-of-factly, “I’m a poet.”

I was floored. She claimed it. Outright. Granted, she does have a book of poetry published and is the editor of a literary journal. (See Maria Tabor at and Homestead Review.) But still.

Even though I have yet to land a piece in a magazine or journal deemed “literary,” I have had a few things published. I co-host a local women’s poetry reading. But I still considered myself someone who wrote poetry, not a poet.With the modeled example of Tabor, and the 12 step program outlined in The Artist’s Way, I began the work of changing my self-perception, and the language I used to describe myself.

So, this summer, when I was taken with sudden urge to have a business card, I followed the whim. I bought the perforated sheets, designed the layout, printed them out, and keep them in my wallet. (I have even handed a few out – with plenty of sheepish giggling.) But I put out there, in ink. I claimed my identity because I want grow into it, just as much as I am it now:

Britt Kaufmann
@home mother

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