Will Compose for Food

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I’m pissed that I can’t play my Wii all day to make a living. I’m really good at it. Don’t you think my skills are valuable in the job market? Or do I really have to go to work every day?

— Buddy, New York, New York

You know what? I’m pissed that I can’t write poems all day to make a living! What happened to the days of poet-as-shaman? When the poet was revered and everybody looked to the poet for guidance? When the poet simply needed to impart her wisdom in verse to earn a slice of the bison and a place by the fire? Poets can’t do what they do best these days, which is write poetry. If and when a poet finds a publisher, the first book is not going to make any money, so poets need to supplement their income by teaching, editing, or assisting; steaming cappuccinos, pouring pints, or selling their souls to some conglomerate corporation as a copywriter. If the economy is strong, that is. If the economy is weak, many, many, many un/underemployed poets are cashing in their Peace Corps bonds and watching Dead Poets Society over and over, imparting their wisdom in verse with those who are either forced or drawn on the thumb and pointer finger.

Sorry, Buddy, I just had to blow off some steam. Your Wii skills are valuable in the job market. They are just translated into different skills in the workplace. Like I bet you are really good at pouring a cup of coffee for your boss, adding just the right amount of cream and sugar, and that’s because the Wii has developed your hand-eye coordination. And I bet you don’t spill it when you carry it to her office — that’s because it has developed your balance, too. Oh, I know, that’s pretty lame…let me try again.

Buddy, you have to do a lot of research to find a venue seeking your un-translated Wii skills, but it’s not impossible. My friend found a company test driving its video games and I bet you could find something similar. He had to leave his girlfriend and move across the country, but he followed his dream, and now he’s happy, he’s moved up the ladder, and he has a new girlfriend. Now is not really the time for a career change, but if you really want to, go for it.

I don’t really know all the details to give you further guidance, but I can say this: Make sure you don’t spend ALL DAY playing Wii. I mean, you can spend most of the day playing Wii, but at least dedicate some time to rounding yourself out a little. Read the newspaper every day so that you are aware of the world around you, and if you test drive a Wii game in which zombies attack the earth in the year 2015, you know exactly how many countries succumb to the undead when you win, due to the independence of Montenegro or other future states. Learn how to talk to people so you can discover their concerns and you can tell them exactly what game would best fill that existential void.

And when you do get this job, Buddy, don’t forget to give me a slice. • 16 February 2009

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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