"No man but a blockhead," Samuel Johnson famously observed, "ever wrote, except for money." This is tough news for poets, since the writing they do is often less immediately profitable than a second-grader's math homework (the kid gets a cookie or a hug; the poet gets a rejection letter from The Kenyon Review). Poetry itself is tremendously valuable, of course, but that value is often realized many years after a poem's composition, and sometimes long after the end of its author's life.
In the meantime, everyone has to eat. So unless you win the lottery, being a poet means finding a job that can support the writing of poems.
From banker (T.S. Eliot) to undertaker (Thomas Lynch), working at a job has in one way or another influenced their poetry, for some quite obviously, and for others more subtly.
- David Orr, "From Dissections To Depositions, Poets' Second Jobs."
|"Day Jobs of the Poets"|
from Incidental Comics:
words and pictures by