This video is not worth a full view, but start somewhere around 1:10 or 20 and you will get to see Bill Murray crack a joke or two and follow it up with a poem I love from Lorine Niedecker, probably the most famous poet to come from Wisconsin. I found this video in preparation for the Lorine Niedecker Festival in rural Fort Atkinson Wisco, about an hour and a half from where I live in Racine. It was glorious. It took place last weekend, mostly at the Fort Public Library. For the most part, I was younger than everyone else there by 600 years.
The reason why I’m posting this video (aside from the fact that Bill Murray + Lorine Niedecker is an unstoppably wonderful duo) is that this Niedecker poem is about work–specifically hard, thankless grunt work and what we do and don’t consider to fit in that category. Murray is reading it to a bunch of construction workers who are pretty much profoundly bored. They were building what is now the Poet’s House building–one of our ivory towers dedicated to the craft–but they probably could have been building a massive latrine for all it mattered to them. The added strangeness, though, of this poem about hard work being read by a comedian to people who just want to get back to their hard work makes it extra enjoyable in several metalayers for me. So get down. And if you don’t know Niedecker’s work, go to your library and make that happen. She’s a brilliant economist of poetry, can rock tight phrases and twist them as well as anyone, and the pastoral images of her work are as good as anything I’ve ever read. Gangster pastoral Wisconsin poetry.
Also, if you’ve never heard of Bill Murray, might I recommend starting with Ghostbusters?
1 and 2?