But Does My Labor Love Me Back? Toward Refuge in Love, University-Social Practice, and Poetry

Kendall Grady
UC Santa Cruz

Despite the long attraction between academia and poetic praxis, the university is not always a sanctuary for non-normative inquiry and textual experimentation. Although scholarship—chiefly peer-reviewed journal articles—may borrow features from poetry (formal devices, including metaphor or imagery, as well as structural apparatuses, including aphoristic or braided narrative), writing sheltered by academia must ultimately be fungible within protocols of argumentation and financialization. I argue that the limits of the university as a site of creative refuge are enforced by societal understandings of poetry as a “labor of love,” and of love itself as an abundant resource that does not require institutional support. On one hand, poetry—and kindred textualities that aberrate from discipline, genre, register of language, or habituated modes of thought—are gaining traction in the humanities. On the other hand, such experimentations manifesting in verse, prose, lyric essay, autotheory, and literary journalism are harbored long-term only when their labors of love do not question the dialectic preserved by academia’s simultaneous embrace and rebuff. By decoupling love from labor and imagining the role of poetry in a more open university, creative/critical scholars can reform their romance with academic professionalization and reshape the nature of work that is possible within academia.