Usually, “unassuming” refers to an attitude of meekness and humility, which a poet might have – or not. Conversely, “assuming” typically indicates pretentiousness or a certain air of arrogance, and no, I’m not talking about that either.
What comes to mind is how a poet needs to avoid assuming anything and, therefore, be “un-assuming.”
To un-assume might mean an attitude of acceptance of whatever comes. Unlike people other than mystics or prophets, a poet needs to aim for and retain a sense of openness.
To un-assume might also mean recognizing the ongoing need to check out everything – from looking up words in the dictionary to verifying quotations and their sources to researching a subject of interest and getting facts straight – yes, in poetry!
To un-assume might mean acknowledging that other people and resources have legitimate perspectives that differ from our own – and then being curious about them and also fair.
A closed box, cement block, locked door, or heavy duty marker with permanent ink do not spell the receptivity I’m talking about, but instead illustrate the opposite.
An unassuming life allows for spontaneity, mystery, and those unexpected turns a poem might take before finishing what it has to say – to us and to our readers. Whatever allows the surprise and wonder we experienced in childhood is what will most likely work well in an honest, unassuming poem.
© 2014, Mary Sayler is poet-author of Outside Eden, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes, and Living in the Nature Poem in print and in an e-book on Kindle. Mary also works with other poets through the Contact & Critiques page on her website.