Labor, Poetry & Professionaliztion: pastiche of journal entries
I am thinking about professionalization, labor and poetry. How the counterpoint echos off each of these. Yet, these caverns find themselves pressured together, by little quakes, by life’s demander/s and other bandits: These are the attempts to crumble them into fluidity. If this essay had a title it would be: stealing time.
I work four jobs: part-time permeates every move I perform. Today it is sunny and almost too hot, a reprieve from the rain dumping on this coast and my hair and the news is reporting on radiation floating. I worry about getting sun stained; I wish I had my lover’s skin; I realize the privilege in this thought, which also feels.
Part-time afterschool program coordinator, part-time administrator, part-time poetry editor, part-time bartender and part-time lover. I live 300 miles away from my lover. The inability to dedicate myself to anything drips off the walls of these caves onto my skin, which can’t help but absorb. Yet, dedication (investment) is what I seek in each job. The economy of investment, its exchange, makes it beautiful between lovers, but despondent on a large scale and rarely beautiful at a job. Though, these jobs do want to be a part of this beauty, even if they are subject to the same imaginary-dollar-house. It is this nuance and intention that causes my feet to trip over themselves, that causes me to over-invest and therefore, under-invest in each cave. Like when you write/ read something so determinedly good that it renders its opposite as clearly as the intended essence. I realize that failure also feels. I picked these positions because they were the best to me and the best for me. “The Best” is a vague qualifier, as lazy in practice as it is in writing or use.
Are my caves the best because they allow me to funnel my unrelenting need for labor into a category of professionalization, a need resulting in my class and upbringing? A need which connects me to disparate family? Did my class and upbringing fool me? I am not special in thinking this and my generation is not unique in feeling it. I have had fourteen jobs since I was 14, which is also when I started working. It’s like that Tee-Shirt made in Hawaii or somewhere: “QUIT YOUR JOB/BUY A TICKET/FALL IN LOVE/ NEVER RETURN”
I started reading a piece that told me ellipses were an ethical gesture because they indicated a missing text. This creates a culture that is embarrassed to use the text, I thought. Culpability must also extend past my writing into a utility driven self-reflexivity. Yet, I create permissions. Permissions we create. What I am trying to say is that culpability can, and perhaps should, be the fluid that forges the flood: the flood that cleans or damages anyone’s caves. Perhaps, the damage will be to those houses of professionalization, labor and poetry.
aside: These are not the houses that my grandparents lived in, and they are not real. A table because I put my hand on it and call it a table. No, the houses of professionalization are the breeders of imaginary money. They operate in imagination as well and often at a faster pace than the artist. And none of this has to do with a poet I am publishing in my next journal needing to flee to Japan to repair her home and my wanting to write to her endlessly about her journey: the selfishness in that.
For the latter of the two houses (labor and poetry), I carved poetry into a laborious endeavor. This might qualify as a success in my life. Therefore, I can write without the guilt of privilege convincing me my imagination did not deserve such luxury. However, with four jobs, I have to steal time to do this; I avoid walking home under dumping rain and grabble with the dump truck that is my liver now. I wrote a poem today when pulling over on the side of the freeway on way home from work. The exit was called “Fish Ranch Road.” What happens off of “Fish Ranch Road?”
This does not mean the writing before (or under) this sign was “the best,” only that it occurs/ed. It doesn’t even mean that what I am writing now is even good. It only means that it happens with using my hands, performing a physical action over and over, so that process develops into a laborious one that forges intimacy between the endeavor of writing and the writer or me. By the time the poem enters the landscape of the computer, it engages again with the anxieties of its facade, and the process of writing begins to wither much like the enraged orchid on the kitchen table, disillusioned by her image.
I cannot reconcile (my) poetry and (my) professionalization, and maybe I am also disillusioned. I’m not sure I have time to take care of myself. A woman at my afterschool program calls me “The Machine.” And, though others have, I do not curse myself or my imagination for inhabiting The Bar space, along with these other positions. They put mirrors behind the bar so the patrons can see whose coming up behind them and so the bartenders can watch the patrons when they turn to pour a whiskey. Where I live even the bar-bandits have degrees with poison ivy on them. In those places that I’ll never be able to afford to live, the ivy is just a little greener. The Bandits are everywhere
Here is the best description of a hangover I read aloud this weekend while in California. I read it to my lover, who made me apple and mascarpone crepes and drank a breakfast beer. From Roberto Bolaño’s Monsieur Pain:
I woke with stiff limbs, an unrelenting ache in my neck, and a frightful hangover. It was eleven in the morning and a glassy dust was falling, or rising, through the gap in the roof. The warehouse was quiet; the junk was stubbornly guarded by an aura of neglect: objects banished from the realm of human concern—even the light seemed to shun them. It was not hard to find the door; it had no handle and opened onto a gravel-strewn courtyard with abandoned flowerbeds on either side. The morning, the sky’s crown, seemed to be falling apart. Which was comforting, in a sense, since I was in a similar condition. To the left I noticed a metal door, which was shut. Beside it was a little wooden box, which seemed to have been waiting there for centuries; I sat down on it. I took a deep breath. Images of previous hours—escape and disappointment, dreams and delirium— tumbled through me. It’s finished, I thought aloud, the carriages bound for nowhere are finished. The sky over Paris, though clearer than the day before, seemed more sinister than ever. Like a mirror hanging over the hole, I thought. But we could never know for sure. An indecipherable tongue. I urinated against a wall, profusely. I was tired; I felt wretched, alone, and confused in the midst of a labyrinth that was far too big for me. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t tell whether the sky was shaking or I was.Like the Talking Heads I hate people when they aren’t polite. Learning how to move impolitely—stealthily—is what professionalization is; it is learning the moves so well that by being impolite you appear polite! Our mastering of maneuvering and the maneuvers themselves are what make one good or bad at moving within profession they embody. We learn these moves so thoroughly that we succeed or fail at them on grand scales within the interior landscape of our selves, which go onto generate the imaginary numbers that appear online in our bank accounts. These successes and failures are what cause me to claim that money is imaginary. A claim of this sort could be construed as threateningly condescending to the class that I inhabit and those on much lower class rungs. However, by eliminating the symbolic concept engendered from the paper-cotton-money, I would just take and give what I wanted. I would exchange and trade without the need to participate in those symbolic trades that further detach me from reality and from other living beings, making us all easier targets for the bandits.Because of all of these threats, poetry somehow created or suffered from the generation of a poetic infrastructure within the shelter of the university: the academic teaching-poet was formed. However, there are not enough university positions to hold us all, and why should we be so privileged to fight amongst ourselves for such shelter… Am I being ethical? I hope the gesture is at least.
At the most, I want to imagine existence as a poem. This is what I wrote during Andrew Joron’s talk at the 2010 Labor Conference in Oakland. I agree with Joron and the person (lost to my notes now) that he quoted: “Jobs are Jails.” They involve coercion against our wills and poetry operates against coercion’s imperative. I believe in the benefits of labor, and that labor pulls one out of the selfishness and privilege that the self can develop and is often encourage to develop in America, while your uncles are out back burying thousands in the backyard. I believe in the process of writing as an act of labor. Thus, the rambling here explores the cave of a poetic position as well: one where we can choose how to focus our robust exploration and need to perform such labors. Work is necessity and Poetry is Freedom. I steal time not only to love the way someone speaks to me in the morning hours but also to write poems out of the corners of my eyes, the static climbing off me.