Thoughts on “Becoming a Name”

Within literary circles, there is constant talk about authors who are “names” — that is, they’ve done so much and accomplished things so notable that their names are immediately recognizable in print or elsewhere: Billy Collins, Rita Dove, C.K. Williams, and others could be considered “names” within the field of poetry, for example.
This observation, then, drives a question: How do amateur poets become “names” also? Certainly winning prizes and earning publication credits help, but without a big-name publisher, well-attended reading events, and a certain splash of eccentric personality, young or fledgling poets can seemingly forget about the idea of “becoming a name.”
Perhaps a deeper philosophical question is this: Should fame really be the end goal of poets, novice or experienced? Certainly recognition helps when making appearance arrangements and other accommodations, but if that sort of “brand awareness” becomes all we’re shooting for as writers, something’s wrong. We write, primarily, because we love to write, and feel deprived if we don’t. When that love becomes something other, some strong impetus for our faces to grace the cover of Poets and Writers perhaps, then it’s time to step back and re-examine.

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