So I think I’m writing an essay–or a series of essays–but I keep calling it a collection of prose poems. At what point to I have to admit to myself that I might just be writing prose? Prose terrifies me. Can’t I just cling like a sloth to my poet moniker forever? Does this contradict my roles as a nonfiction editor and professional/academic writing tutor? So many identities!
The American service industry rightfully gets a lot of grief: low pay, discrimination galore, and physical labor without any of the prestige found in other nations.
However, for writers and other artists, service industry work can be something of a godsend. Not only are the schedules much more forgiving and even flexible (other workers can often cover shifts), but the money/work trade-off can offer a solid enough exchange rate for folks whose primary work does not support their lifestyles.
As a service industry worker, we can remove ourselves from the “what do you do” narrative that dominates capitalist cultures by “doing” outside of our tipped, paychecked work: writing, reading, painting, and dancing are our lifeblood, but within the constraints of a 9-to-5–or even an academic–job, the economy of time is notoriously difficult to manage. Service jobs allow workers to leave their work in the store, bar, restaurant, food truck, etc. and to spend their off-the-clock hours as they choose (barring errands, etc.).
I’m actually really enjoying my new life in food service. Even my 10-hour/week tutoring job takes more out of me than scooping ice cream. (Another post to come on that subject.) Scooping is largely physical, and despite bodily exertion, physical work can feel almost like a form of meditation for me–interrupted, of course, by the emotional labor of acting like I care about peoples’ days. But mostly, I am able to turn my mental energy towards other projects.
And when I get home, after I wash the ice cream crust out of my eyelashes and boots, I can watch Buffy and read to my heart’s content!
This poem rips and tears. A must-read.
Glad Poetry magazine is printing some interesting work. I cancelled my subscription last year because everything they printed was garbage.
So too bad I’m not ambidextrous because my scooping hand is the same as my writing hand and yowza I’m going to need to build up some tougher tendons for 8 hours of continuous scooping.
In the meantime, I’ll start typing my journal I guess.
Just devoured bell hooks’s memoir Wounds of Passion. Every once in a while, I need a jolt of poet energy to remind me why I’ve never been able to give up stanza breaks. The relationship between work and the rest of writers’ lives in difficult to embody, and more difficult to elucidate. hooks presents these relationships in all their complexity, and her–often unacknowledged–sacrifices in pursuit of finding an equilibrium are familiar to anyone without a trust fund or a MacArthur grant.
There is a wild sun shower happening outside, complete with a glorious rainbow arcing over the college. Weather is a mystery.
Everyone go read.