“Troubleshooting Your Advanced Degree” by Michael Jones
Michael Jones teaches at Oakland High School in Oakland, CA. His work appears in Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other places.
The lexicon of the library-dwelling graduate student is perfect for this poem. It serves simultaneously as an expression of frustration and a description of the source. What’s best, though, is the title: as if graduate study is a piece of equipment like a printer, where most problems can be solved by checking cables and restarting the power. Imagine being able to do that with the archived papers of a famous writer: restart to find all the misfiled pieces back in their proper place. Or to upgrade your brain’s software when a new piece of writing refuses to take shape. Alas, some things remain stubbornly analog.
Everything old is new again, or more accurately, the humanities departments of any given university will have the most outdated technology on campus. Perfect DOS VGA and Kubasta both recreate the dot matrix printing you still might see on a bulletin board here and there. Who knows? Maybe the printers have been upgraded, but this notice, still true, hangs on.