Throughout my academic poetry training, my cohorts and I were encouraged to identify our unique or idiosyncratic areas of knowledge, and to write about them. Obsessed with Mongolia? Got zombies on the brain? Have a thing for Victorian woodcuts? We were taught that the topics we had the most specialised knowledge of would make for our best writing. This was not only because we could write something unique and interesting about our favourite subject, but also because our unconventional knowledge would allow us to compose a poetry uniquely structured and suited to our topic.
Having finished my degree, however, and having entered the workforce, the subject I am now most intimately acquainted with is my job. I spend my days retyping the same email, cutting and pasting things into spreadsheets, and checking documents for formatting errors. Initially, I got my poetry kicks from the deluge of spam that poured into my inbox every day, snatching the best lines for poems, but a better filter has since been installed, and now only the most boring spam can make it through. While I often come across interesting phrases in the innumerable poorly written emails I receive every day, I am unwilling to save any of these sentences for the sake of the senders’ privacy and dignity. While I like my coworkers, and am grateful to have found a job in this economy, like many first jobs, my work is dull and uninspiring.
Since I’ve begun working, for the first time, my daily life and experiences do not move me to write. Though I initially believed any job could somehow be made poetic, there’s nothing about my work that I can turn into poetry (except, perhaps, the last spectacular paper jam I caused). Moreover, there’s nothing about my work that I want to write about—I find my job boring, and not in a poetic way. This has led me to a new appreciation of poetry, similar to the appreciation I had for novels when I was younger. While you can write great poetry by exploring your experiences and idiosyncratic knowledge, you can improve your life by embracing poetry. Instead of writing about my daily dose of office induced sedation, I look forward to coming home and reading poetry that has absolutely nothing to do with my work, and to writing about subjects that have nothing to do with my job. When I was a student, it was my job to write, and it could be stressful just like any other academic program. Now that I am nine-to-fiving it, however, poetry is my escape. I’ve had other more inspiring jobs, and am certain that one day I will again find a job that inspires me to write. Until that time, my area of expertise doesn’t have to be the thing that carries my writing. Instead, poetry can be the thing that carries me.
Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.