Now that the critical thesis is behind me (working on that hour of revisions this weekend) I find I have lots of time and space. This past week I have been transitioning back to life B.C.T (before critical thesis) and the process is much different than I thought it would be. Yes, I have the luxury of focusing solely on creative work but the urge to write isn’t there like it was in the rainforest of that “would be fifty-first state.” My work and career have emerged in a big way and are demanding my attention. I don’t know why this focus on work and career is a surprise to me; the thesis topic was the poetics of working so I have been thinking about these issues since the idea popped into my head back in October.
Anyway, y’all need some context before I can move on. My 9-to-5 is completely different than the lovely words, images, sounds, and feelings I put on the page. I work for the NC state legislature as the statistician for an organization that evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of state-funded programs. We have been called a “watchdog” by our local newspaper and at least one Associated Press writer. The last election brought a change in leadership in both houses--Republican for the first time in over 100 years. The new leadership likes what we do and wants us to do more. Problem is: there’s only 10 of us, including the Director and his assistant, both of whom do not work on projects. We’re “lean and mean”, sometimes with too much emphasis on the “mean”. Our dysfunctional work family avoids challenging conversations and doesn’t like to hold each other accountable, which is ironic since accountability and laying out the facts is what we DO! On top of that, add the fact that this is state government--so backwards, slow to change, resistant to ideas that make sense but would upset the way things have been done for years even though the situation on which those decisions were based have completely changed (NC and the rest of the country is no longer driven by manufacturing, people!!!)
I have started actively looking for new job--updated the resume and cover letter, identified recruiters, reworked my profile on Monster.com and LinkedIn--but am trying to figure out what that will be. I know I am a poet and I know poetry will not support me financially. I’d have to get the MacArthur Genius grant to get paid as much as I do now--and I know that’s not going to happen. So I am looking for a career to do while I am doing poetry: one that engages me as much as poetry, can feed my poetics, and can be nurtured by it.
Last semester I read Late for Work by David Tucker (won the Breadloaf prize in 2006). His poems focus on the newsroom--he’s a managing editor of the Newark Star Ledger--and still is. I wrote to him during my thesis and asked whether he had considered a literary career. He responded, “I have never seriously considered doing anything else, until recently, though I'm probably enjoying being a poet-journalist now more than ever [...]. Poetry is also the perfect opposite to my workday life- no deadlines and the search for a different kind of news. Poetry also helps me in the way I edit stories, more and more over the years I have grown to edit by cadence and beat. If a story does not make the right music there is usually something fundamentally wrong with it. The truth makes a sound, clear and compelling.”
That’s what got me on this search for “poet–???”. It’s not as simple as my job is “left brain” and my poetry is “right brain." I like using this grey matter between my ears, pushing it to learn and do more than even I thought capable. I want to earn money from something that uses all of my strengths and talents and makes me dig deep to develop areas where I am not as strong. My current job doesn’t do that; my role is behind the scenes working on all projects. I’m a good project manager who doesn’t lead projects. I’m a good communicator who doesn’t make presentations. I’m a good people manager and mentor who doesn’t supervise anyone. I believe if I am able to fully express myself at the office during the day, it will be much easier for me to fully express myself on the page at night.