Friday, March 26, 2010

Worker Poet

The Hamilton Poetry Centre hosted a reading by Tom Wayman. I admire his work, and since I had not heard him read in more than twenty years, I excused myself from my usual Thursday evening activity to attend. He always had the reputation of being the workers’ poet both because of his own poems and several anthologies he compiled on that theme.
He still has that reputation for that was the way he was introduced to the audience. He himself spent some time explaining the reasoning behind some of his concentration on work related poetry. Others would focus on love and death, but he found that few poets wrote about their daily work experiences. What could be more natural, he said, since we spend a third of our day at work and much more thinking and talking about work. Many people are defined, either by themselves or by others, through their work. People who can write about what they do, either blue collar jobs or professional, and then in poetry have my admiration and respect. I have tried to write “work” poems and never succeeded to my own satisfaction. I find it easier to write about others at their work.

I admired Wayman’s earlier work and have been intrigued with its development. The focus is no longer on the physical aspects of labour; years of teaching have helped morph the same sensibility into poetry about the classroom, about his relationship to the drudgeries as well as the stimulations of teaching. He can deal precisely with the relationships of students and teacher or that of each to the material. All the while he retains his sense of humour and his common manner of expression. In his poetry he speaks as one person to another without thought of educational level, experience, or any other fact that might set people apart.

No matter what suit he wears or where he walks he is still a poet of and for the people.

1 comment:

annaken said...

Sounds like an interesting experience you had listening to him. Glad you were able to go.