I was listening to a CD on the way to work, listening to contemporary artists cover a version of Woody Guthrie's "Hard Travelin.'" It's a song about tough jobs: harvesting crops, driving trucks, mining ores of all sorts--the kind of work that leaves you bone tired and dirty.
I thought about creating some sort of companion piece. I talk to a lot of my friends, and we're all astonished at how tired our work leaves us. We're not working in jobs like our fathers worked: military jobs, factory jobs, sales jobs. Most of us sit in comfy chairs in air conditioned offices. Some of us teach. Some of us appear in court. Even if our working conditions are grim, it's usually because of problems that are quickly fixed (like several weeks ago, when we had no AC and only half of our needed electrical power--but after several hours, everything was back to normal).
Should I listen to Woody Guthrie's lyrics and be grateful that I don't endure such hardship? Or should I use them as a scaffolding for my own poem about office work, much the way that James Joyce used Homer as a scaffolding for Ulysses? Hmm. Mining numbers, driving data, harvesting graduates. I'm not sure I can pull this off without meandering into the realms of the absurd--but in the hopes that absurd will border the land of profound, off I go to play with this idea. Feel free to play along (the lyrics are here)!
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