Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Post 4

Listen to this recording of Philip Levine introducing and reading his poem, "What Work Is".

Then write a post responding to one of these questions.

1) What do you think of Levine's story and poem? How do they relate to the issues and texts we've been discussing in class? To your experiences? What does the poem tell us about "what work is"?

2) Describe any text - a movie, television show, book, song - from outside our class that talks about work. What images of work does it give? What in this text interests or speaks to you? Relates to your experiences? Your hopes and fears about work? Feel free to add links, video, audio of the text if you wish.

Text of the poem:
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying
in the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.


  1. Prof. T. said...
    It's interesting that you say that about the readings increasing your fear. I thought about that while putting the syllabus together - not wanting to give too dark a picture. Terkel was criticized for not interviewing more people who liked their work - he said he'd love to have talked to more, but for the most part, that wasn't the case. BUT - our last unit will be about "alternatives" - so hopefully that part will give you more hope!

    You know Professor Tanenbaum, that reminds me so much of one man...I will dialog him now for you!

    President Obama: "Yes we can!"

    Unfortunately,"change" is all we'll have left in our pockets soon!

    Now you may ask, "Why would you doubt him?"

    It's not him that I doubt, it's the status quo pulling his strings! (long story that isn't related to this post, but is related to future global economy discussion) So, with that said, TO BE CONTINUED...

  2. Tells, me how hard it is to make it anywhere just about. That oppurtunity just doesn't knock at your front door. In the poem,is just so real how i feel back then it was so hard for people working and taking care of themselves as well as a family.From the poem ''...if YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO READ THIS, YOU KNOW WHAT WORK IS..." Saids so much, in my house hold my mom and grandmother saids the same thing and i like to think that they means that's in here time they had to work just as hard for let bit of what i have and all the things to come for me as a young woman.Taking care household, going to work at 5:30AM - 2:OOPM or until, plus take care the children and so on.That woman work is never done,... now that's what work is to them.

  3. Hey Professor Tanenbaum, I know I am being defiant by using this as a way to message you other than comment on the post should check out my latest blog...its actually on Wal-Mart! *wink* <~~~ in a clever way

  4. this poem tells me basically how much hard work it is to get a job. it tells me basically how good i had it when i was younger becuase i always thought i had a hard life and noone knew what it was like to be me and i complained about everything. yet my mom and grandma and aunts and uncles and so on didnt have much when they were younge and they had to struggle and i didnt. but it is now that i am older and i saw how hard it was to find a job and get rejected so many times for stupid reasons in which i also know those bosses just didnt want to higher me but they would someone else. work isnt something given to everyone. and i say this because it also can be if you have the right connections. your parents cant always do everything for you and you learn this on your own. i have always been independent and very ambitious when it came to getting what i want. i always wanted tow ork and make my own money i always hated depending on my mom for something becuase not only did i have to wait for when she wanted or could do it but i couldnt get it when i wanted it and feel great that i got it on my own. now i have a job and i can provide eveything besides shelter at the moment for myself without my moms help.

    when Mr. Levine says "How long has it been since you told him
    you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
    opened your eyes wide and said those words,
    and maybe kissed his cheek?"
    i understood kind of. people usually take there frustration and jus seperate themselevs from their family. i havent told my mom that in a long time and she bust her ass raising four kids on her own. she hasnt done to bad but there was never any affection with any of us when it came to her. she was all work and bills and provide the food. you got to respect her on doing that i know i give her props. but we never gave her the thank you for taking other peoples bullshyt to support us. lol but i know now why she was like that. by the time she ususally got home from workin 8 to 8 she would always knock right out. and thats what happens to me basically.. when i wake up they are usually gone now to either school or work and when i com back from work or school everyone is usually sleeping or i am sleeping before they do. work is hard and straining and noone ever understands until they actually get one.