How One Poet Eats

Ever wondered how poets live, besides perpetually going to grad school? Me too! Mostly when I was working full-time and resenting anyone who was creatively fulfilled (it was a dark time).

Unfortunately (for me), the answer for “how do you support yourself and still make your art?” is almost always, “Keep your day job.” Poet and lawyer Amy Woolard is interviewed at the Atlantic about writing poetry while also working at a job that is both challenging and fulfilling. She talks about the various ways she’s supported herself as a poet, sharing her poetry with coworkers (or not), and how she manages to write poetry while working as a child-welfare attorney.


How does your current work affect your writing?

I’d like to say that it doesn’t, but I think whenever you have to perform a couple of different identities within your life, each is affected by the other in some way. My job provides a nice counter-balance to the anything-goes world of poems—it’s still a persuasion-based job, but definitely in a rational, intellectual, responsible, real-world sort of way. This may sound terrible, but in my day job, I have to be a good person—and don’t get me wrong: I want to be and like being a good person, but poems give me a path to wrestle with the terrifying, difficult, absurd, imperfect, uncontrollable parts of the world in a much different but incredibly important way. As an attorney and a policy advocate, I can focus on actual change for the better. In poems, I can kind of tear a hole in that continuum and play around more with the scaffolding of it all. In policy, “good” is always the desired outcome. In poems, “good” rarely has anything to do with my goals—and sometimes it’s just desire itself that I want.

I love that.

Photo: mrsdkrebs

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