A scholar is just a library’s way of making another library.
For it is a remarkable fact that the more questionable an art, science or occupation is, the more those who practise it are inclined to regard themselves as invested with a kind of priesthood and to claim that all should bow before its mysteries. Useful professions are clearly meant for the public, but those whose utility is more dubious can only justify their existence by assuming that the public is meant for them: now, this is just the illusion that lies at the root of solemnity.
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow DWYL as career advice to those covetous of her success.
If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves — in fact, to loving ourselves — what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.
Yet arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are “Personal Care Aide” and “Home Care Aide,” with average salaries of $19,640 per year and $20,560 per year in 2010, respectively. Elevating certain types of professions to something worthy of love necessarily denigrates the labor of those who do unglamorous work that keeps society functioning, especially the crucial work of caregivers.
If DWYL denigrates or makes dangerously invisible vast swaths of labor that allow many of us to live in comfort and to do what we love, it has also caused great damage to the professions it portends to celebrate, especially those jobs existing within institutional structures. Nowhere has the DWYL mantra been more devastating to its adherents than in academia. The average PhD student of the mid 2000s forwent the easy money of finance and law (now slightly less easy) to live on a meager stipend in order to pursue their passion for Norse mythology or the history of Afro-Cuban music.
The reward for answering this higher calling is an academic employment marketplace in which around 41 percent of American faculty are adjunct professors — contract instructors who usually receive low pay, no benefits, no office, no job security, and no long-term stake in the schools where they work.
"about poetry, simile, artificial intelligence, mourning, sex, rock and roll, grammar, romantic love" up at American Poetry Review. I’m captivated throughout, but noticed my synapses firing especially while reading the following:
In arithmetic, two straight lines denote equality: =
Two curvy lines, on the other hand (which are like the equals sign, but not the same as the equal sign) denote similarity, likeness, approximation: ≈
Grammarians call the verb to be (is, are) the copula.
Bruce Beasley has a disturbing verse essay called “Is,” in which sex and procreation are (perhaps too much) like metaphor, and (perhaps too much) like divine creation, to Beasley’s adolescent imagination: the copula is too much like copulation.
Consider an unwritten (so far as I know) but easily drafted essay called “The Queer Simile,” in which comparisons using like or as stand for same-sex and non-procreative sexual pleasure, while metaphor, comparison using the copula, stands for heterosexual intercourse.
Romantic and modernist preferences for metaphor could look, from this angle, like assertions of straight privilege, while the obvious artifice in simile (this is not really that, this ≠ that: it’s only like that. this ≈ that) makes it akin to camp, and to drag.
I’m reminded of (this is “like”) Joyelle McSweeney’s talk on “The ‘Future’ of ‘Poetry,’” which engages with ideas of “excess,” in the production of poetry—an excess which mirrors, perhaps, that of the noisy announcement of resemblance in simile.
I’m reminded, too, of the term I recently learned for a verbal tic that grates my ears to pieces: the double copula, or how “The problem is, is that the word ‘is’ repeats itself needlessly, excessively.”
And I am reminded of two poems that construct simile after simile, without explicitly (or at all) revealing said similes’ topics: Alice Oswald’s Memorial, and Mark Leidner’s “Blackouts.” David Fishelov would categorize this structure as violating one of the principles governing the non-poetic simile: that each element of such a simile (topic, vehicle, ground, and simile marker) is explicitly stated.
Oswald’s poem even goes so far as to repeat (excessively?) each simile, insisting on the likeness while leaving the topic open to the mood of the reader:
These are all just notes, just associations, I am making, with no real argument, of course. These are marks of the curiosity Burt’s essay sparked in me. Perhaps you will discover others?