But is Poetry a Job?

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Over at the Poetry Foundation, Patricia Lockwood considers whether or not poetry is real work:

Is it work, though? The question persists. Is a single muscle exerted during the process? Do you sweat at all, besides the weird thing that sometimes happens under your right arm because you haven’t lifted it up for 8 hours? Do you get to retire after you work at it faithfully for 50 years? The answers are no, no, and no. Can anyone fire a poet? Only Death can fire a poet.

But on the other hand: is it anything like sawing logs? Yes, if you are boring. Is it anything like building the pyramids? Yes, because as far as we know, aliens are doing it. Is it anything like construction work? Please. Women go the long way so they don’t have to pass us by.


Marisa Siegel lives, writes, and edits near NYC. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her essay “Inherited Anger” appears in the anthology Burn It Down (Seal Press, 2019) and her debut poetry chapbook, Fixed Stars, is forthcoming from Burrow Press in 2022. She is editor-in-chief and owner of The Rumpus. Follow her on Twitter at @marisasaystweet. More from this author →