What Work Is
Effort, toil, task, job, labour, slog, chore, drudgery, exertion. In an article published by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian in 2013 he argues that “Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution”. How has our concept of work changed and how have contemporary poets tackled this subject? Using Philip Levine’s beautiful poem ‘What Work Is’ as our touchstone, we will set off exploring this question to expand our definition of what work is or can be. We will look at how poets have written about work and write our own poetry about this thing that we will spend, on average 90,000 hours of our lives doing. We’ll also be thinking about useful and meaningful work, and how the right work can be essential to poets, exploring the ideas of the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez on what the true ‘work’ of a poet is. Throughout the course we will be moving towards creating our own ‘poetics of work’.
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