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Jorie Graham's Employment

Dear friends,

I said I loved women's poetry because it speaks home so to me. I don't know if I sufficiently emphasized that I find contemporary women's poems speak home to all people today - they take a different perspective than that of the man (as outlined by among others Carol Gilligan).

I tried to share this in the wee hours of Tuesday morning with one of my lists (Women Writers Across the Ages at Yahoo), and the stanzaic form came out all distorted.  Its effect (as with many poems) requires that its format be seen.  It's too important not to try again so what I've done is moved the stanzas flush to the margin in the hope it might come out near to the original stanzaic look. I also sent it, together with Plath's "The Applicant" as a companion poem:

**************************

              Jorie Graham -- Employment

Listen the voice is American it would reach you it has wiring in its swan’s neck
             
where it is
always turning

round to see behind itself as it has no past to speak of except some nocturnal
journals written in woods where the fight has just taken place or is about to
             
take place
for place

the pupils have firelight in them where the man a surveyor or a tracker still has
             
no idea what
is coming

the wall-to-wall cars on the 405 for the ride home from the cubicle or the corner
             
office – how big

the difference – or the waiting all day again in line till your number is
             
called it will be
called which means

exactly nothing as no one will say to you as was promised by all eternity ‘ah son, do you
know where you came from, tell me, tell me your story as you have come to this
             
Station’ – no, they
did away with
the stations
and the jobs
the way of
life

and your number, how you hold it, its promise on its paper,
if numbers could breathe each one of these would be an
             
exhalation, the last breath of something

and then there you have it: stilled: the exactness: the number: your
             
number. That is why they
can use it. Because it was living
and now is
stilled. The transition from one state to the
other – they
give, you
receive – provides its shape.

A number is always hovering over something beneath it. It is
            
invisible, but you can feel it. To make a sum

you summon a crowd. A large number is a form
            
 of mob. The larger the number the more
terrifying.

They are getting very large now.
            
The thing to do right
away

is to start counting, to say it is my
             
turn, mine to step into
the stream of blood
for the interview,
to say I
can do it, to say I
am not

one, and then say two, three, four and feel
             
the blood take you in from above a legion

single file heading out in formation
             
across a desert that will not count.


*****************
I particularly like the line about the interview being taking blood, the stream of interviewees a stream of blood. 

******************
Once again I cannot find that we've ever had a poem by Graham put on Wompo before. I don't know why. Here's her biography on wikipedia:   She had a privileged childhood and has had an adulthood in tune with that -- all the more is the poem commendable:

******************

To mirror what's happening in the US today we need to couple the above with Plath's "The Applicant"

to make the point that the values underlying "Employment" are nothing new.

Who does not know the tragic story of Plath?


Point and Shoot by Martha Rosler

Sylvia

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