What would I do?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 by Rachel

On the first day of teaching poetry this past spring, I asked my class “Why do we write poetry?” One student, a slam poet, said dramatically, “Because if I didn’t, I would die.” Of course the whole class laughed, but I think there’s definitely some truth there. In the most depressed moments of my life, I haven’t been able to write. Not being able to write makes me even more depressed. If I don’t have a piece of paper, I’ll write on my skin. This is something inherent about my person…poetry is something that I NEED to do and have been doing for as long as I can remember


In one of the first poetry classes this semester, we discussed the necessity for MFA programs and had the “Why are we here? kind of talk.” I said that without this degree, I wouldn’t be able to get a job. Laura Newbern responded with something like “But why couldn’t you go work on a fishing boat?” That really floored me. I thought, well, I guess I could, but can people really come home after that kind of day and write? Regardless, I’m not really cut out for physical labor in any form. One of my classmates pointed out the badassness of someone like Hemingway, who’s off driving ambulances and fighting in the Spanish Civil War and still making time to write.


I have a lot of days when I wake up and think that I don’t know what I want to do with my life. In the 8th grade yearbook, I was voted most likely to become a teacher. That always really annoyed the crap out of me. But look where I am, as poet, perma-student, and teacher. So let’s just cut all three out of the equation. What would I do if I couldn’t be a poet, MFA student, or masterful English 1101 instructor?



*Doctor (specifically medical examiner or gynecologist)
*Crime scene investigator (somewhere exotic like Miami)
*Horror film director
*Animal cop
*Organic farmer
*Sock monkey manufacturer
*Palm reader/psychic
*Tattoo artist (shaky hands might put me at a disadvantage)
*FBI agent
*Playboy bunny
*Stand up comedienne
*Environmental lawyer
*Celebrity/entertainment lawyer


What about ya’ll? What would you do if you couldn’t write?