Friday, April 15, 2011

Get a job, Lebowski!

A few days ago I posted a story to the effect that Walt Whitman was a routinely effective and contented office worker. This was news, for we are accustomed to believing strongly before the fact that one cannot be a poet and work in an office. We believe this, because biographers and critics - who as a rule work in Academia - discount normalcy in favor of what sticks out. This is right and proper, for biographers and critics want their subjects and therefore themselves to be noticed, and being not-normal is a routine way of being noticed - being romantic, let's say. Let's put that word to it. Romantic.

Walt Whitman, the carefree wastrel, who lounges to work, labors idly, then disappears as in a cloud of whimsy. This is more or less how Whitman's working life has been characterized. This, or, that he tended to the wounded during the Civil War. The artist a tending angel. Really, I never knew he had had an office job. He, and others. Like Charles Olsen, who served in several bureaucratic functions, I believe.

I would like writing programs to post on their university walls picture diagrams of famous and not-so famous poets, men and women, and what they did or do for a living. I would like 23 year-old MFA students to consider the challenge of writing and being a baker, let's say, and adding their name to the list. In short, I would like everyone all at once to grow up, get a clue, and not worry about what they do for a living, as long as it gets them enough money to live satisfactorily, or so that they have sufficient time and energy and freedom of thought to write as well as they would hope to.

Because that's all a job is. There is no ideal, and certainly no right and wrong on the subject of getting a living. Walt apparently thought highly of some of the bureaucrats he worked with. And why not. Why not simply do what you do well and respect others who do the same.