Hm. Yes. What does that mean? Did someone anoint me and declare me poet? No. Did someone tap me on the shoulder and announce that I was a poet? Not that either.
Nor could I just say, "Okay, I'm a poet." (If you want to test that, try it.)
How then become a poet? Generically, I don't know. Specifically, here's my journey.
A man I worked with gave me a paperback and insisted, "Read this! Better than drugs! Better than whiskey!"
It was! It was The Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams. I read it and wondered, "How come poetry wasn't like this in high school?" Oh! Robert Burns had been! But I really didn't care. I wanted to write like Williams Carlos Williams! No, not that. I wanted to write and to move readers, or listeners, like reading William Carlos Williams had moved me!
And I thought I could. Oh dear! So I wrote a poem and - hm! - it wasn't quite right. I tinkered around with it until I recognized that that one was hopeless. So I wrote another. Repeat, frequently, stubbornly, and then one worked.
I went back to school. I studied with a poet, a very good poet, Keith Wilson. I studied poetry. I read many, many, many poets. I read what poets wrote about writing poems. I read what critics wrote about poets and poems. And I wrote many, many, many poems - and some of them were. I submitted poems to publications, and some of them were accepted. I wrote poems and wrote poems and wrote poems, and more and more of them were.
For years I wrote a lot of poems and shared some with a few friends. And then one day (please hear cowboy music), someone told me that the best thing he'd learned from Keith Wilson was that poetry was a performance art! What? What? Had I not listened?
So I found some open mics and began reading my poems. Goddam! People liked them! At least people at open mics did. They told me so. They quoted back lines to me. Some would see me weeks later and say, "I loved that poem about...." And describe it well enough that I knew which one.
I had become a poet. People whose poetry I respect and admire accepted me as a poet.
And I keep writing poems and writing poems and writing poems. And performing them. And people keep liking and admiring them.