A question for the poets: What do you do when you’re at a party, and some unimaginative guest asks you what you “do”, and you have that moment where the following thoughts collide in a mangle of mild discomfort in your mind:
1. Do I bypass the details of how I have a menial day-job to support the poetry?
2. He’s going to think I’m a wanker if I say I’m a poet.
3. But I am a fucking poet, I even got published in Overland once!
4. I studied writing and everything, does that justify me or make it sadder that I’m still fixated on it even though Penguin still don’t want my verse novel manuscript?
5. I mean, I did the Diploma at RMIT/I did the Bachelors at RMIT/I did the Masters at RMIT/I did a fucking Ph.D at RMIT and I teach the subject now, that’s got to count for something…
6. Look at this dork, he’s probably got a Ph.D in Quantum Physics, I can see it now, the beer coming out his nose when he snorts and says “you can do Ph.Ds in creative writing these days? Really?”
7. I’d have loved to do a Ph.D on Quantum Physics. If only I could remember how long-division works. No, seriously.
8. Maybe he’s one of the polite ones who will smile and nod and say “I never liked poetry much, to be honest”,
9. and if that happens, note to self: Resist urge to tell him he just hasn’t read the right poetry yet. You know he stopped at Shakespeare sonnets in high-school which brought down his University entrance score to 98.9, and his left eye still gets that nervous pulsating twitch when he thinks about it 15 years on. He’s probably not willing to believe you when you tell him there are as many poets and poetic styles and genres as there are musicians and musical genres – and EVERYBODY has at least one kind of music they love. It’s just that poetry isn’t passive, you can’t really read it while you cook your nightly pasta sauce. I mean you do, but he’s probably particular about not getting tomato on his books, even the ones he hates. More likely he’d be worried about burning his dinner. His reaction would be “Well I’ll read a poem when you do a quadratic equation”, which wouldn’t be so bad except you really don’t remember how to do long-division.
10. So change the subject if he gives you the smile’n’nod.
11. Better yet, lie. Say you’re in marketing. You market… something… something people actually need and love. Toilet paper, asprin, organic chickens, breath mints, gym memberships…
12. Don’t be stupid, excuse yourself. Go stand in the line for the loo. Nobody will ask you personal questions there.
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