Monday, July 16, 2012

The Modern Workforce: Good Grief

(This doesn’t speak to specialists like doctors, lawyers, scientists etc.)
In an era when even high school kids know that corporations are really running the country, why are Americans still seeking meaning in the workplace?  Not too long ago, media outlets praised what they called the “modern employee”.  This modern marvel is the equivalent of a workforce mercenary; able to move between careers as easily as a 401K could be rolled over.  What a dramatic shift from the employee who worked her whole life for one company.  But is it realistic to be a career hopping Rambo?  I doubt many Americans want that kind of career.  Cubicle hopscotch isn’t the definition of a career.  It’s closer to becoming a programmable chimp. 

Here’s a simplistic example of what I mean by “programmable chimp”.  Let us say that a company needs someone to file TPS reports (gratuitous Office Space reference), the new workforce mercenary can do that.  How about process or design TPS reports?  Got it.  Underwrite, audit, proofread, quality control.  Yep, that too and we can’t forget the most important job, Supervise. You get the picture.  And one reason corporations can bring any Joe Shmoe off the street to do these jobs is the Operations Manual!  Saints be praised!  Normally compiled before a massive layoff, by the very people about to be laid off, the Operations Manual is pretty much the how-to and the key to employee expendability.

Interestingly, the real innovation has gone almost completely unnoticed by the media (shocking).  Corporations are now nearly identical in their employment needs.  America is a service economy which means we manufacture very little.  Our economy has become a veritable waste land of cubicles or the 21st century equivalent of the factory era.  Let’s look at the corporate organizational structure for a moment.  A company of 150 to 200 people serving anywhere between 2 to 3 thousand customers usually consists of the following departments: Human Resources, Executive Team, Information Technologies and the Staff. 

            Increasingly anything remotely resembling performance recognition perks or opportunities for mobility is reserved for everyone but the Staff.  Bonuses, additional paid time off, holiday parties, raises that match the rate of inflation, things once considered incentives to motivate Staff have been kicked up the ladder as exclusive to supervisory management.  The Staff (who also exist within IT and HR) consist of the aforementioned “modern employee” mostly because they have no choice.   The resulting workplace is a demoralized zone consisting of the hopeless, the fake, and those biding their time. Furthermore, the thousands of dollars these employees spent on college educations go to waste because corporations aren’t looking to hear from their mercenaries.  I know, I know, at least these people can  pay their bills (barely), go on vacation once a year and pray like a monk not to get sick (we won’t even get into healthcare).  The truth is corporations have always looked at staff as interchangeable expendable parts but these days they don’t have to hide it. 

Here is the rub for Staff: they are all treated like the so called “modern employee” whether they choose to be workforce mercenaries or not.  Don’t get me wrong, if you get your kicks going from job to job building a resume that looks like a thesis, that’s your deal.  Go for it.  Where does that leave the others? 


Monday, March 28, 2011


Reading as much poetry as I do I can’t help but notice the lack of introductions in contemporary poetry books.  When you consider how many of today’s poets teach for a living its odd that there aren’t 3 to 4 pages of background on the poets in their given collections.  Of course I’m not saying all but definitely most.  I suppose a first collection might not have an introduction but a second or third should.  (If a poet is so lucky as to publish multiple books but still I wouldn’t mind seeing an introduction in a first offering.) 

What school of poetry informs their poetic choices?  Which poet most shaped their poetic identity or provided inspiration?  What poet do they hate or strongly disagree with?  What do they think about smoking in public?  Don’t we readers require something? 

I find introductions to be a great way for aspiring poets and writers to search within themselves for their own literary aesthetic by learning from the poet in their hand.  For example, I read that Paul Celan was a practitioner of “absolute poetry” or true poetry, a school of thought rampant in France after Mallarme.  Mallarme believed in the absolute manipulation of everything associated with the work to arrive at that truth.  Truth and more truth but like his contemporaries Celan would not allow that doctrine to compromise his truth in experience.  Most of his experience involved death and war.   His muse was clear, the truth and purity of his poems came from those terrible experiences. Celan wouldn’t compromise that element of his work.  That’s such a wonderful thing to know about a poet.   To know how he navigated the popular movements of the day and kept to his style.

An introduction I read on Rene Char discussed his absolute commitment to the mystery of poetry.  Char didn’t believe a poem should be spelled out for the reader and he was “radically opposed to limits”.  He was also the type to rock the boat, “The person who comes into the world to disturb nothing is worth neither consideration nor patience”.  Well, I know where he stands.  This is missing in today’s books of poetry.  These introductions that tell us so much, that help us to distinguish poets and find out a bit more about what we like.

William Carlos Williams is one of my favorite poets. He might be the last poet to actually be fanatical about the art of poetry.  I know that he disliked TS Eliot's 'high' verse, which, though I can’t decipher most times, I still enjoy.  Williams questioned everything that wasn’t direct or clear.  He pissed people off and sometimes even made enemies.  I wonder if today’s poetry is purposely skirting the danger.  Where is the danger?  Why aren’t these poets rocking the boat?

Several articles are floating around the internet pitting the MFA literary organ against the non-MFA literary organ.  These articles allude to the ‘art of playing it safe’ that is being ingrained in today’s writers and poets and that they are being kept in line.  This uniformity is supposed to bring jobs and “opportunities” etc.  Is that it?  Are today’s poets playing it safe so they don’t piss of any potential suitors?  I suppose I can’t blame them.  There was a time, believe it or not, where you could be a writer/poet and not work.  Poets, many moons ago, survived on bread crusts and cheap wine.  They got by on help from friends, parents and the meager sales of their work.  A poet’s life was one of poverty but for the most part they managed to survive.  Today’s world is very different.  No one, especially not poets can survive for long under the same circumstances in today’s world.

But does it have to be that way?  Aren’t the same institutions that allegedly control the minds of our writer/poets supposed to be full of rebels like Williams, Char, Celan, and Ginsberg?  I suppose we are left to wonder. 

I for one am curious about the schools of poetry today’s poets are members of.  I don’t mean boxed terms like urban poetry, gay poetry, spoken word poetry, social or conscious poetry etc.  Let’s talk Modernist, Dadaist, Beat and down the line.  These are still relevant.  The industrial machine has been born again as the technology age.  Globalization is another word for internationalism isn’t it?  Do the same stigmas apply?  Why aren’t we writing about it? 
I guess in the end we are always left with more questions and most importantly more discussions to be had.


The renewed anger and resulting protests of Tony Hoagland’s poem “The Change” was refreshing.  The poem sucked but it got people talking about race and questioning themselves on many levels.  That takes balls.  It takes extremes doesn’t it, to shake us out of our comfort zones?  Hmm. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Could anyone be as fortunate as Emily Dickinson today?  (Click here if you love Emily)

The introduction in my copy of Barnes & Noble Classics “The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson” informs me that her poems were almost never found.  Quite by coincidence Emily’s sister found the poems in a box, gave them to someone who knew someone and 60 years later the rest was history.  Emily was descended from the mighty and renowned Lowell’s of Massachusetts.  You could almost say that to be published and revered was her destiny. 

However, her poetic majesty came about or almost didn’t come about under precarious circumstances.  Thankfully and especially to those of the 50’s and 60’s, mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers carried the weight of poetry and literatures consumption percentage and that they passed those contents (whether we wanted it or not, usually boys) on to us as best as we’d receive them.  Emily became the bar for which American literary feminism was measured for a while.

Enjoying Emily as I do I think about my own poems and about the poems of those poets that neither I nor the rest of the world know.  What if no one finds our poems in a box?  What if they don’t know someone who knows someone?  Or, a scenario that is more and more likely, we are not descended from a literary family? Do you see a dreadful yet real pattern forming here?  Are you sick of the questions? ;O/

It must have been a kinder time for poets.  Huh, yeah right!  When I think how much easier it is for poets and writers today with teaching, editing and writing copy or schlep work.  Not to mention the internet.  There are online communities for writers and poets where we can showcase our talents.  We can obtain Fantasy Fame via blogs, like this one.  Emily Dickinson wrote beautifully intense and emotionally electric poems.  She didn’t have the benefit of Twitter, Facebook, Fictionaut (which I love and support), Wordpress, etc, etc. yet somehow she managed to publish (albeit posthumously) and become royalty. 

So what do the rest of us do?  We don’t seem to be in too different a world when you boil it down.  It still comes down to knowing someone who knows someone if you want to get published.  Unless you are the rare can’t miss and I would really hate to apply that here.  So, let’s not, right?  I don’t know about you but most poets and writers aren’t the hor d’oeuvres and champagne type.  Personally I love a good soiree but I and those like me are an exception.  Outside of the MFA program if one is fortunate enough to get in where will we do our networking?  Online networking has a high degree of creepiness.  I have yet to hear of a poets and writers chamber of commerce and that would be ugly.  Poets and writers shouldn’t hand out business cards while chugging 2 buck chuck and cheese on a Ritz in a joint that’s going to collect half the membership dues for hosting.   

This got me thinking about the Slate article, MFA vs. NYC ( ) and all that other stuff and it sort of depressed me. 

I know that in the end we need to find our own way to get published and share our art with the world.  But the pessimist in me keeps thinking, what if Emily’s sister, dear old inquisitive Lavinia, had thrown the box out?  (Shudder)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guess what? The President is American!
(This link should dispel the myth that someone not qualified to be President from a citizenship standpoint could ever become such. G dubya proved it doesn't take brains.)

Again! Again? Yep. This week U.S. President Barack Obama has had to endure more questions regarding his citizenship and whether or not he was born on US soil. This is starting to stink of something nobody wants to talk about, Racism. Let’s get a little list together of ‘incidents’ the President has had to contend with that Stink!

· South Carolina Rep Joe Wilson calls the President a liar as the President addresses Congress
(By the way, that’s the first time that’s ever happened to a sitting President. Wonder why?)

· Let’s not forget the “Obama’s a Muslim” conspiracy

· Sarah Palin: ‘nuff said (She called the President a terrorist and the First Lady a racist.)

· Geraldine Ferraro, Harry Reid, Glenn Beck and the king of ‘em all Rush Limbaugh ( have all made racist remarks about the President and or his wife (seriously you go after a dude’s wife?).

· And the ever present Birth Certificate Fiasco

It has been fun to ridicule the morons that perpetuate this bullshit. However, it’s starting to get scary now. Some of these people are getting elected. I read a great article somewhere about how the majority of people don’t vote and don’t participate in the electoral/political process. When these same people become frustrated with their economical situations and the conditions around them they are very likely to follow the voices of anger as opposed to dissension. Dissension tends to require some thought whereas anger, well, I think history has taught us that lesson hasn’t it? I’d like to get up on a podium somewhere and call all these people out by name and make some derogatory comments about them and then apologize half heartedly later. Just to see if we can tip the gossip balance to the side of justice. But the phony apologies given after the fact by these “people” have no effect nor would mine. The masses only remember the shock of the negative comments and the terrific job our sensationalist news media does to deliver it.

If you’re pissed about the less than respectful treatment our President gets write a letter, send a Tweet, post a status on Facebook, MySpace, whatever. Tap the person next to you on the shoulder and say “What the fuck? Do they actually think a non-citizen would be President?”

Let’s do SOMETHING people. Ok, I’m done.

Monday, December 27, 2010

He's THAT guy.

This gentleman can, not only tell you what sucks about the literary scene today, but also tell you why people don't read poetry anymore. Personally, I blame TS Eliot (love him as I do).

Granted, there's a lot more to do today for entertainment than just pick up a book. There's always the Real Housewives of Timbuktu to watch on TV or texting what amounts to a "War and Peace" sized message to your peeps about how that 'bitch' had on the same retro converses you did at Starbucks today. Seriously though, Art requires committment. Committment to creating it if you are an Artist and committment to appreciating it if you consider yourself an aficionado.

Mr Shivani is quite the Worldly Man. His explanations are clear and up to date. Peruse his website, read his detractors, and also read his supporters. Mr Shivani makes excellent points and there should be a school of criticism started around his criticism and observations about the status of Literature today.

Oh and this guy too, he's quite the observer. Mark McGurl:

Enjoy and discuss!

The Mood of the People: Welcome to the Blog, The Mood of the People

The Mood of the People: Welcome to the Blog, The Mood of the People: "The aim is to discuss politics and literature. Literature includes, of course, Poetry! I hope you find it at best compelling and at least ..."

Welcome to the Blog, The Mood of the People

The aim is to discuss politics and literature. Literature includes, of course, Poetry!

I hope you find it at best compelling and at least obnoxious enough to defame to your cronies.

Also, I hope I can muster enough creative juices to keep you people engaged/interested/nauseous.

Well, we'll see you in between the pages.