“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
— William Carlos Williams, physician and poet
I have picked crops, been a mill worker, a cannery worker, a sawyer, carpenter, surveyor, bus driver, fine furniture builder, musician, engineer, and resident corporate mustapha. Now, in the final third of life, I will learn to be a working poet – with a small p.
To me, a worker is somebody who makes a living through their labor. Labor, the work of your hands and heart, is sacred and you shouldn’t give it away to just anybody. I started working on commercial farms picking berries and beans when I was ten and have worked at least part of each year since. I don’t plan on ever stopping.
Poetry is culture work. If the poet does his or her job well, their work becomes insurgent art and a human call to arms, as Carlos Williams pointed out. If there is anything more important right now, I’m not sure what it is.
I’ve been a journeyman working at it part time for years now and realize that it is a craft, like any other I have pursued. Gabriel Garcia Marquez says that literature is carpentry. I plan to take him at his word.
These are some of my favorite labor poets: William Shakespeare, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, Kay Ryan, William Stafford, Bukowski, Tomas Tranströmer, Pablo Neruda, Antonio Machado, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Bob Dylan, Pussy Riot and Eminem.
Write on, my friends. It is down to us now.
Yours in art and labor,