'Invisible Work' by Alison Luterman
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Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces fro dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.
There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Invisible Work: A Deeper Dive
Alison Luterman's poem, Invisible Work, is a powerful and evocative piece that explores the hidden labor that goes into making the world function. The poem is a commentary on the often-overlooked work that is done by caretakers, mothers, and other people who put in countless hours of effort to keep our society running smoothly. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will take a closer look at the themes and techniques of the poem and explore its deeper meanings.
The poem, Invisible Work, is a narrative that tells the story of a woman who works tirelessly to take care of her children, her home, and her community. Throughout the poem, the narrator describes the countless tasks that she performs, from cooking and cleaning to nursing her sick child and comforting her aging mother. Despite the fact that this work is often invisible and unacknowledged, the narrator finds meaning and purpose in it.
The poem is divided into five stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of the narrator's life. In the first stanza, the narrator describes the work that she does in her home, including cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. She notes that this work is often thankless and invisible, but that it is essential to keeping her family and her community functioning.
The second stanza focuses on the narrator's work as a caregiver. She describes the long hours she spends taking care of her sick child, and notes that this work is often exhausting and emotionally draining. Despite this, she finds meaning in the fact that she is able to provide comfort and support to her child.
The third stanza explores the narrator's role as a mediator and problem solver. She notes that she is often called upon to resolve conflicts and help others, and that this work requires patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of human nature.
In the fourth stanza, the narrator describes the work that she does in her community. She notes that she volunteers her time to help others, and that this work is often overlooked and undervalued.
Finally, in the fifth stanza, the narrator reflects on the meaning of her work. She notes that even though her work is often invisible, it is essential to the functioning of her family and her community. She finds purpose and meaning in the fact that she is able to make a difference in the lives of others.
One of the central themes of Invisible Work is the idea that the work that is done by caretakers and mothers is often invisible and unacknowledged. Luterman portrays this work as essential to the functioning of society, but notes that it is often undervalued and overlooked. The poem suggests that this invisibility is a result of the fact that this work is often performed by women, who are traditionally relegated to the domestic sphere.
Another theme of the poem is the idea of purpose and meaning. Despite the fact that the work that the narrator does is often thankless and invisible, she finds meaning and purpose in it. The poem suggests that this sense of purpose comes from the fact that the narrator is able to make a difference in the lives of others.
Luterman employs a number of different techniques in Invisible Work to create a sense of depth and complexity. One of the most notable techniques is the use of imagery. Throughout the poem, Luterman uses vivid and evocative language to describe the various tasks that the narrator performs. For example, she describes the work of cooking as "stirring a pot of stew, / an irony too delicious to pass up." This use of imagery helps to bring the narrator's work to life, and underscores its importance.
Another technique that Luterman uses is repetition. Throughout the poem, she repeats the phrase "Invisible work" several times. This repetition helps to emphasize the importance of the work that the narrator does, and underscores the fact that it is often overlooked.
Finally, Luterman uses a conversational tone throughout the poem. This helps to create a sense of intimacy between the narrator and the reader, and makes the poem feel more personal and immediate.
Invisible Work is a deeply moving and thought-provoking poem that offers a powerful commentary on the hidden labor that goes into making the world function. The poem suggests that this work is often performed by women, and that it is undervalued and overlooked because of this. Despite this, the narrator finds meaning and purpose in her work, and is able to make a difference in the lives of others.
One possible interpretation of the poem is that it is a feminist commentary on the role of women in society. The poem suggests that women are often relegated to the domestic sphere, and that their work is undervalued and invisible because of this. The poem is a call to recognize and value the work that is done by women, and to give it the recognition and respect that it deserves.
Another interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on the nature of work itself. The poem suggests that work is not just about earning a paycheck or achieving success, but about making a difference in the lives of others. The narrator finds meaning and purpose in her work because she is able to make a tangible difference in the lives of her family and her community.
Invisible Work is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the hidden labor that goes into making the world function. The poem is a commentary on the often-overlooked work that is done by caretakers, mothers, and other people who put in countless hours of effort to keep our society running smoothly. Through its use of vivid imagery, repetition, and conversational tone, the poem creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy that draws the reader in. Ultimately, the poem is a call to recognize and value the work that is done by women, and to give it the recognition and respect that it deserves.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Invisible Work: An Ode to the Unsung Heroes
Have you ever stopped to think about the invisible work that goes on around you every day? The work that is often overlooked and undervalued, but is essential to keeping our world running smoothly. Alison Luterman's poem, "Invisible Work," is a beautiful tribute to these unsung heroes.
The poem begins with a powerful image of a woman cleaning a public restroom. Luterman describes her as "a woman in a blue smock / spraying a tiled wall with a hose." This image immediately sets the tone for the poem, highlighting the often-overlooked work that goes into maintaining public spaces. The woman in the blue smock is not just cleaning a bathroom; she is performing a vital service that ensures the health and safety of everyone who uses that space.
Luterman goes on to describe other forms of invisible work, such as the work of a mother caring for her child, or a teacher grading papers late into the night. These are tasks that are often taken for granted, but are essential to the functioning of our society. The poem reminds us that without these unsung heroes, our world would not be able to function.
One of the most powerful lines in the poem is when Luterman writes, "It's the work of the spider / weaving its web in the dark." This line is a beautiful metaphor for the work that goes on behind the scenes, the work that is often invisible to us. The spider's web is a delicate and intricate creation, but it is also essential to the spider's survival. In the same way, the invisible work that goes on around us is essential to our survival as a society.
Luterman also touches on the idea of gender roles and how they can limit our perception of what work is valuable. She writes, "It's the work of the old Polish man / in front of us in the checkout line / painstakingly counting out his pennies." This line highlights the idea that work is not just what we traditionally think of as "work," such as a high-paying job. The old Polish man's work is just as valuable as anyone else's, even though it may not be glamorous or well-paid.
The poem ends with a call to action, urging us to recognize and appreciate the invisible work that goes on around us. Luterman writes, "Let us thank the work / that makes our lives worthwhile." This line is a reminder that we should not take the work of others for granted, but should instead be grateful for the contributions they make to our lives.
Overall, "Invisible Work" is a powerful and moving poem that celebrates the unsung heroes of our society. It reminds us that the work that is often overlooked and undervalued is essential to our survival as a society. The poem is a call to action, urging us to recognize and appreciate the invisible work that goes on around us. It is a beautiful tribute to those who work tirelessly behind the scenes, and a reminder that their work is just as valuable as anyone else's.
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