“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
— William Carlos Williams, physician and poet
I have picked crops, been a mill worker, a cannery worker, a sawyer, carpenter, surveyor, bus driver, musician, engineer, and resident corporate mustapha. Now I am studying to be a working poet – with a small p.
Labor, the work of your hands and heart, is sacred and you shouldn’t give it away to just anybody. I started working on commercial farms picking berries and beans when I was ten and have worked at least part of each year since. I don’t plan on ever stopping. Poetry is culture work. If the poet does his or her job well, their work becomes insurgent art and a human call to arms, as Carlos Williams pointed out. If there is anything more important right now, I’m not sure what it is.
I started writing under the pen name Burl Whitman when was a journeyman learning the craft (I still am.) But after taking numerous classes from some excellent poets I’ve started publishing in journals and I’ve also been offered a book contract. Assuming things work out (they are being very slow) I’ll use my given name there. It seems like a good time to start using it here too. I like my pen name though. Burl has helped my learn to write like who I am. So he isn’t going away, just taking a breather. Thanks to all my friends who have read my work here. I’ve learned a lot from reading yours as well.
Write on, my friends. It is down to us now.
Yours in art and labor,
–Craig Brandis (aka Burl Whitman)