I LOVE MY JOB, Sam Weselowski
If a Leaf Falls Press, 2019 £5.00
Poetry as dialectical onslaught
This limited-edition chapbook on the theme of work and jobs comprises a six-page, single-paragraph prose poem that begins like this:
It’s what I wanted to do. It’s a young man’s game but it’s all I know and it’s all I can do to make money. It’s intellectually challenging and I’ve been told that I have a very unique set of skills. It’s a fabulous job. I take pride in my job.
Most of these comments are positive. However, a subtle tension is introduced in the second sentence — what the first voice ‘wanted to do’, the next does, because it’s ‘all [they] know’ and the only way they can earn a living. While the positive remarks continue to predominate, more and more negative comments gradually appear alongside them; soon we are in the midst of a dialectical sequence:
I have a lot of fun at work. I like people. I like to make people feel better. I hate my employer. It’s a really toxic environment to work in. We are not paid properly. It’s not hard work and it keeps me busy and moving.
Most people will relate easily to many of the things expressed in the poem; indeed, the poem’s contradictory voices may have been appropriated from survey results of some kind (one remark is about doing a job ‘since 2001’, another refers to being ‘the top producer in Canada’, where Weselowski is from), or perhaps they come from authorial memory of hearing all these familiar comments.
At any rate, the concentrated text challenges the reader to consider simultaneously how jobs can bring about personal satisfaction and fulfilment as well as the capitalist workplace’s harsher, often brutal realities. To the extent that the chapbook is ideological as well as experimental, the dialectic onslaught produces a synthesis that seems in the end to ‘take sides’:
I’m really good at it. I’m going to go back to it. It’s not what I was meant to do. It’s mind-numbing. I don’t know. I can’t stand the job anymore. I’m just done with it.