Much has been written about the importance of finding one’s place, both in the universal sense and within one’s chosen profession. Modern poets strive for years to find their voice, their style, and their unique contribution to literature. In essence, they strive to find their niche.
No matter how you pronounce it (neesh for some, nitch for others), one’s niche is an important component to the writing life. Knowing it can mean the difference between publication and rejection. Our niche, to some extent, is how we brand ourselves as writers. A quick look at the title of this site will show you how I feel my work is defined — “Florida poetry.” Granted, that doesn’t mean my work is all beach sunsets and Disney characters (those aren’t the REAL Florida anyway), but enough of my work has its roots in Floridian soil to justify the label, I believe. I am indeed a Florida Poet.
But what happens when that niche becomes a rut? When the title we choose to wear is either outgrown or outmoded, it’s time to reconsider. A wise writing mentor once told me, “We are constantly redefining ourselves.” He was right then, and it still holds true. When our chosen position in life or literature no longer suits our situation, then change, in one form or another, must occur. Even now, as my travels increase and my style matures, I feel that the “Florida Poet” label is being stretched to its limits. The niche has lived its life, and perhaps I may retire that verbiage altogether. Like actors who fear typecasting, writers too can “portray themselves into a box.” If one is known by strictly one state or one style, then it’s time to diversify. Showing off the full range of “chops” that one possesses can also breathe fresh air into previously stale subject matter.
Oh sure, I’ll always be a Florida poet at heart — this land, where my family has spent seven generations, has been too good to even consider abandoning my roots, my heritage, or my Cracker drawl. But as my poems grow and as my tastes broaden, perhaps I may dig the niche a little broader. Florida for many is a destination. For me, it is the port from which to set sail — not a rut, but a route. May my work always do it justice, and may I always fit my niche, no matter its wording, to the fullest.