I just joined this community, and noticed that you have a very fine intro questionnaire. Here is mine.
1. Are you a writer of poetry, or principally a reader?
Both. Last year I wrote over 200 poems. I also read a substantial amount.
2. Did you ever take courses specifically in the writing or study of poetry in college or high school (as opposed to general literature surveys)?
Yes. I had one mediocre poetry class and one lousy poetry class in college, plus a one-on-one honors tutorial that involved a lot of me and my teacher huddling over each other's poems. The latter was tremendously useful.
3. Do you buy/read poetry magazines or chapbooks? Anthologies of past great poets?
I'm a reviewer, so I don't actually have to pay for much reading material. We do have a bookcase of poetry anthologies and collections, mostly classic with some modern thrown in. I subscribe to Star*Line and have contributed enough to The Mid-America Poetry Review that they keep sending me issues.
4. Do you attend poetry readings, either as a reader or audience member?
Occasionally. There aren't a lot of opportunities where I live.
5. If a writer of poetry, have you ever published your work in hard-copy, such as a magazine or chapbook? Do you publish or post your work on the web?
Both, constantly. Last year I had 46 poems published. My poetry has appeared in over 100 different markets.
6. Have you ever written any articles, essays, or analyses of poetry? If so, would you be willing to present them to this community to stimulate discussion?
Yes. Some of them are still up online.
"So You Want To Be A Poetry Editor"
"Anthimeria: Verbing Weirds Language"
7. Why exactly do you like poetry? What does it do to you?
Everything. It invigorates, relaxes, releases tension. It moves people. It takes me places. It puts money in the bank. It delights the eye and ear and mouth of the beholder. Poetry is also uniquely suited to expressing ideas and emotions for which language has no specific vocabulary or grammar.
8. Who are your favorite poets? If a writer, do these same poets influence your style, or are there others?
Favorites and influences overlap. In no particular order, mine include: Robert Hayden, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickenson, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Walt Whitman, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Deborah Kolodji, Marge Simon, and Rudyard Kipling. And of course, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for whom I was named, my parents being poetry fans also.
I cherish the description of my poem "One Ship Tall" (which won the 2007 Science Fiction Poetry Association contest): "Heinlein by way of Kipling."
9. What "schools" or styles of poetry appeal to you most? Why?
I expect poetry to mean something, so I tend to favor classical styles over the modern murk. I like rhymed, metered poetry but I also like other poetic forms such as syllabic or interlaced poems. The Romantics were fun. Some of the Dadaist and beatnik stuff was interesting.
10. What distinguishes a good poem? What must be present in a poem to make it "work" or resonate for you?
All poems should have good impact; they should affect the reader. A poem needs good mouthfeel and earcharm; it should make you want to read it aloud. If not free verse, it must follow the rules of its form precisely. It may be serious or whimsical, but should say something important. It may be mysterious, but should not be unclear, vague, or murky.
11. There are some people who fill up notebooks with hundreds of poems, yet could not properly be called poets, and there are others who, no matter how little they write, very clearly deserve the epithet "poet." What makes a poet?
That depends on the language and culture. In English, one who writes poems is a poet. In Irish, you have to have a "chair" -- be accepted as the civic poet of a specific town -- in order to claim the title. I've got a fantasy language that states how one has an ability; so there, I could say that I'm a poet by talent, vocation, and profession.
To aim at the core of the question, and distinguish the identity of "a poet" from the description of "a person who writes some poetry" ... well, first, you do have to write poetry. You can't be a poet without that. You need to understand what poetry is and how it works, the history of it, the art and science of it. You need the talents and skills and perceptions that let you look at the world a little sideways and share what you sense. Audience recognition is a plus but not essential. It does, however, trump modesty: if other people insist that you're a poet, then you are.
12. What sort of topics would you like to see discussed in the about_poetry community?
I'm a forms junkie, always interested in new or unusual forms. I like talking about specific poetic techniques. Activities that people are planning should be shared -- for example, I host Poetry Fishbowls on my blog that you folks might want to join, and I'd be interested in hearing what you're up to as well. Issues affecting the field can be discussed, like the effect of academic poets on the public opinion of poetry. The rise of genre poetry is especially intriguing, as there are places where the interest in poetry is much higher than average, such as science fiction and Paganism. Anything and everything, really.
I'd like to see this community become more active. It took me a while to find, even though it's exactly the topic range I wanted, because it didn't float to the top of my LJ searches. The high-traffic poetry communities are all poetry posts and no discussion. I want the discussion.
Oh, and I've written a book: Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Chants, Blessings, and Prayers which contains several chapters on poetic techniques and poetry. It's aimed at a magical/Pagan audience but the examples draw from diverse traditions and the exercises will work just fine for any path.