Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Poetry Corner: Loafing

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Raymond Carver

By Norah Christianson

Loafing

By Raymond Carver

 

I looked into the room a moment ago,

and this is what I saw —

my chair in its place by the window,

the book turned facedown on the table.

And on the sill, the cigarette

left burning in its ashtray.

Malingerer! my uncle yelled at me

so long ago. He was right.

I’ve set aside time today,

same as every day,

for doing nothing at all.

 

Raymond Carver, born in Clatskanie, Oregon in 1938, was an American short story writer and poet. Before he was 20, he was married and the father of two.  “He picked tulips, pumped gas, swept hospital corridors, swabbed toilets, and managed an apartment complex,” according to the New York Times Magazine profile of the author. Later, he was able to attend the Iowa Writing Workshop, and soon he was contributing to the revitalization of the American short story. He wrote—from experience—about the working class. Carver died in 1988 in Port Angeles, Washington.

Labor Day coming up. I think of all the jobs I’ve had in my life. Many of them truly miserable, soul-destroying, low-paying jobs. We do jobs like that for the money. But then I think of my brother, a long-haul tractor-trailer driver, who said to me one time, and with fervor, “I love to drive.” He truly loved his job (and not just for the money). He was lucky. He was blessed. I would venture to say there are not many like him.

When your job is not fulfilling, you must have something else that you can feel passionate about. Something that manifests who you really are. For me it was poetry, though I didn’t begin to write until my forties.

For some it’s raising orchids, others it’s pottery making, Lego building, Kombucha brewing, wood carving, Karaoke, mushroom hunting, fly tying, puppetry, soap making…whatever you love to do. And that thing that you feel passionate about, well, you work at that. That’s good work. And it’s good for you. So before you croak, you must be sure to find something to work at that you love.

So how does Raymond Carver’s poem “Loafing” fit into all this? We all know we run around too much. We work too much and too hard. Loafing is not work. Yet, loafing is necessary for our brain and heart health. We get to sit and think. We get to recall experiences and conversations that may lead to our better understanding of them. We get to dream things up for our next puppetry show or our next poem. We allow our creative self out of the pen. Loafing is necessary for our real work. Loafing restores the soul. And the soul nourishes our passion.

I believe that when Carver was loafing, he was not doing nothing, but visualizing what he would write about next, what he would work on next.

Happy Labor Day! Loaf away!

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