Is Poetry a Job?


That same troublesome neighbor once stomped over to Robert Frost’s house and demanded of him, “Is poetry a job?”

Robert Frost bent down and picked up a handful of fallen autumn leaves, which in New England are money. “It IS a job, and I got paid today,” he said.

“Oh my God, you are just the worst,” said the neighbor. “I’m going to go home and build six more walls.”

Robert Frost smiled, the sun glinting horribly off his right eye like inspiration. “If you do, I will write six more poems about them,” he said. The neighbor looked at him with sudden respect. He took a step forward, and so did Robert Frost. Alive to a new understanding of each other, the two men kissed.

I love Patricia Lockwood’s wonderfully absurd digression for The Poetry Foundation about whether or not writing poetry is work.

Other relevant questions answered therein:

– “Is a single muscle exerted during the process?”
– “Do you get to retire after you work at it faithfully for 50 years?”
– “Can anyone fire a poet?”

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