A Living Wage

One benefit of being a poet is in knowing it will never pay a living wage. This relieves me of enormous pressure to be a success in any conventional sense of the word.

I take my freedoms where I can.

Poets and other writers who wish to earn a living wage often turn to teaching in the hope of finding some sort of security that will allow them the freedom to write. What they discover is that the true joy of the ten-month year lies in securing sufficient summer employment so as not to go broke between semesters.

Publishing doesn’t pay well for most writers. As William O’Rourke notes, in his essay, “The Literature of Place and No Place,”

“Universities are subsidizing a great many commercial publishers, since the writers who publish with them could not afford to write without the employment of teaching.”

And then there’s Moss Hart, 20th century American playwright, who observed,

“Writers, actors, and prostitutes all face the same fundamental economic problem: they are competing with amateurs who are pretty good and will work for nothing.”

I’m trying to find my way. There are bills to pay. There are poems to write. I’m working on a new book. I’m not competing with amateurs, I am one. From the French, a “lover of,” and the Latin, amare, “to love.” We’ll see how it goes.

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