This posting focuses on how work offers unique topics as the subject of literature and the relationship between literature and work in the poems:
POEM# 1 Me and My Work by Maya Angelou
I got a piece of a job on the waterfront.
Three days ain't hardly a grind.
It buys some beans and collard greens
And pays the rent on time.
Course the wife works, too.
Got three big children to keep in school,
Need clothes and shoes on their feet,
Give them enough of the things they want
And keep them out of the street.
They've always been good.
My story ain't news and it ain't all sad.
There's plenty worse off than me.
Yet the only thing I really don't need is strangers' sympathy.
That's someone else's word for caring.
POEM# 2 The Rope by Patricia Dobler
Their voices still wake me
As I woke for years to that rise and fall,
The rope pulled taut between them,
Both afraid to break or let go.
Years spilled on the kitchen table,
Picked over like beans or old bills.
What he owed on the mill, what she wanted for him.
Tears swallowed and hidden.
Under layers of paint, under linoleum rugs,
New piled on old, each year the pattern brighter, costlier,
The kids he would say, if it weren't for
She'd hush him and promise
To smile, saying this is what
I want, this is all I ever wanted.
POEM# 3 A Working Marriage by Floyd Skloot
No hardly phlox or spice pinks in neat rows.
Ragged lawn with untrimmed hedge, wasted space,
No garden. One more sultry spring. No time
For rest, day and night thick with choice. Nothing
On the wind but must, nothing in the way
Of movement. The one truth is urgency.
Up at five, worksheets still spread. Urgency
Wafting like smoke wakes the spouse. Two rows
Of claret stains trickling down the stairway
Mark their path to bed. Coffee brews. No space
For cups, no hunger or chitchat. Nothing
To be grained by touching; there may be time later.
They work in separate rooms, time showers around toast
And urgency of soft-boiled eggs. Outside, jays with nothing to stop them seize the
backyard, their harsh row almost distracting.
Squirrels sprint through space
A phone cable makes in elm leaves
The way one's tail twitches before she runs away
Makes her mate move through leaves like wind
No time to lose, nothing on paper yet but space,
Nothing quite as clear as the urgency
To look back from the window, start a row
Of words down another sheet with nothing on it.
There are need to project. Nothing
Adds up. Footsteps of their child are the way
They know morning is relative. His row
Of days leads mark and mark toward summertime,
Weeks squandered, play the only urgency.
He eats toast and cheese in a cleared space
Among flowcharts, ignoring the tense space
Before the rush to scatter. Now nothing
Can wait. Lights and locks. All is urgency.
Briefcase and thermos, hugs on the driveway,
All words becoming a matter of time.
They use side streets to bypass docile rows
Of cars in their way, quick turns to make time.
Nothing can compete with the urgency
Of desks without free space, stacks in long rows.
As you emphasize your answers, please consider some of these ideas:
1. Does work offer unique topics as the subject of literature? Perspectives? Social insights? Work offers unique topics in terms of these three areas. For example, notice how Angelou's poem explores the topic of making ends meet and financial survival as she claims, "It buys some beans and collard greens And pays the rent on time. Course the wife works, too." She offers a perspective about American working families and their struggles. She uses her work to explore the topic socially with marital and familial impacts. She reveals deep insights about these issues as she says, "Got three big children to keep in school,
Need clothes and shoes on their feet...' Her remark, "Yet the only ...