For our Week 11 discussion, I’m asking you to pick ONE of the four poems we read this week and answer one or more questions about how it connects with the articles we read this week. The questions you may choose from are from the final page of your Week 11 Lecture Notes (I am also pasting them below):
In “What Work Is” by Philip Levine, we consider both the difficulties of employment and the emotional work of being open and connected with our loved ones. Is it more difficult to have a healthy emotional life when presented with the financial struggles that the McGlothlins are experiencing? What about the “work” of being emotionally honest with themselves regarding their situation? What kind of “work” are the McGlothlins currently doing, and what are they capable of?
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54793/calling-him-back-from-layoff – In “Calling Him Back from Layoff” by Bob Hicok, the speaker wonders about those who give in to a life on the sidelines following a setback like a layoff. Do you believe this is what Tyler McGlothlin, who experienced setbacks like being fired from McDonald’s and losing his transportation to college classes, is doing? Or is his ability to panhandle a sign of pushing forward in his life the only way he can? Additionally, in the poem, it seems that the people laid off lost their jobs not through their performance, but in the traditional sense of a layoff (lack of funding, organizational restructuring, etc.). Do you think that Tyler and his family are in the same situation—victims of circumstance? Are they responsible for part or all of their situation?
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47991/eden-then-and-now– In “Eden, Then and Now” by Ruth Stone, we see the contrast between the speaker’s stable working-class family and the jobless heading west for new opportunities during the Great Depression. How similar do you find the plight of families during the Great Depression and what’s happening to many communities in rural America? Do you believe families like the McGlothlins are victims of the “corporate greed” referenced in the poem, which has sent manufacturing and other labor-intensive jobs overseas? Are economic booms and bust, along with changes in various industries that disrupt the workforce, simply inevitable? Would different “safety net” policies help these rural communities, or are they enacting additional harm?
– In “The Beauty of a Strip Mall” by Richard Cole, the struggles of small business owners are romanticized as beautiful and noble. David Hess, the small business owner who held the sign stating that he offered Dale McGlothlin a job, is an example of a successful small business owner in a rural, economically depressed area. He says that he got to be successful through hard work, and states that he works despite a medical condition and economic difficulties that include two past bankruptcies. He also points out how difficult it is to find employees who can work hard, consistently, and pass a drug test. Does the poem “The Beauty of a Strip Mall” give you empathy for a small business owner like Hess, who has pushed through his own struggles to be successful? Do you have more empathy for someone like Hess, or for the McGlothlins? Do you believe that small businesses can survive through hard work, or do you believe that the fluctuations of the economy—and maybe even luck—dictate the fate of most small businesses, no matter how hard they work?
In your posting, please state which poem you are connecting with the articles, and what question or questions about the poems you are answering. Please include specific examples from the poem and the articles as well.