Original poem reprinted online here: "What Work Is" by Philip Levine
Originally read:Years and Years ago
Originally Printed for this Blog Project: January 23, 2013
More information about the Poet: Philip Levine
So this is one of those poems where I couldn't pass up on when it came up in one of the daily poem places. I read this poem years ago, and it's one of my favorite poems. I wrote down notes here, but what I always remembered about the poem is the tone. The tone shifts from exasperated from angry.
However, when I reread this poem for this blog, I wondered where the direction of the exasperation and anger went to.
So I write down for the poem, "The tone of these line brought me in, Automatically prophetic and stating --> or trying to bring the reader in." These are the lines, "if you're / old enough to read this you know what / work is, although you may not do it." Current me believes that the first lines solidify the "you" as the speaker. Yes, although I would like it to be me (I believe the speaker of the poem). It would fit the idea if the "you" referred to the speaker.
Why? The poem snowballs off projections.The projections of the person hiring, "a man is waiting who will say, 'No, / we're not hiring today,'" and of the brother as well, "How long has it been sine you told him / you loved him," So where is the speaker curently.
In line, waiting, with his thoughts. It is stated with the first line, "We stand in the rain." And in the rain, and feeling helpless the speaker goes through a whole lot of emotion through projections instead of reality.
I write this for the end of the poem, "The last line is powerful because it bends in multiple ways. The line refers back to the beginning ideas of work definition changes through projection and realization."
This is to say, the poem is based in the mind, but the images are so vivid that we the reader wants them to be real to do something about the brother, about not having a job -- but in reality, we, or the speaker, cannot.