Looking Back on “Being Poor”

A year ago today I wrote the “Being Poor” piece, which I suspect in the interim has become the single most widely-read piece of writing I’ve ever done. To which I say: Good. It was extremely difficult for me to write, because of its subject matter and because so much of it is taken from my own life experience, so I was gratified that with the exception of a couple of small populations of the self-righteous on either extreme of the political spectrum, most people got what I was trying to say, and shared it with others. It’s still one of the most read and linked-to pieces of writing on the site.

I won’t go into many further thoughts on the piece at the moment, since I’ve covered most of them elsewhere already, but I will say that one of the things that really surprised me about the “Being Piece” entry is how so many people who linked to it described it as a “poem,” because (I would hazard to guess) because it’s written one sentence per paragraph, giving it the appearance of a free verse sort of thing. It’s really not a poem, or at the very least, I wasn’t intending it to be a poem when I wrote it. I find it interesting so many people considered it so.

10 thoughts on “Looking Back on “Being Poor”

  1. Wow. Simply…wow.

    This is a hell of a piece of writing, and I suspect that for many – like myself – this strikes much too close to home re our childhood experiences.

    And what a great reminder that being poor in the United States is not always visible.

    Thanks for making sure we didn’t miss it again this time!

  2. I’m *not* re-reading it again because it – and the comments – are still too vivid in my mind, too close to home.

    Writing at its finest.

  3. Of all the things written about that whole unfortunate miasma, it remains the most informative and succient piece of writing I have had the pleasure of reading.

    Thanks again, John.

  4. I read the article a few weeks ago and thought, “right on, but you missed a few things.” There are times I sit back and wonder at how things in my life have changed. How when a noodle from the Mac and Cheese (Kraft not generic, do they still make generics anymore?) spills over I don’t immediately reach into the gas flame to retrieve it. Although I still price things as to how many hours of work it takes to make that money and then see if it’s still worth it. And if something minor breaks I’m still sad, even though I probably can replace it now.

    I also hate that the mind set of “they wouldn’t be poor unless they were lazy/stupid/shiftless/etc” has returned. Did we really need to learn this lesson again?

  5. Thank you again, John.

    I first read this a year ago just after evacuating my home in New Orleans, after seeing so many, many poor people being screwed over. Having nothing but family and a clean and welcome place to sleep still felt like riches after reading this and watching the unfolding hypocrisy.

    It powerfully resonated with me at the time, and I forwarded it on to anyone whom I felt might get it.

    It still means a lot, and I think that it’s an important piece of writing which deserves to get cited and anthologised.

    I think that it may be one of the most succinct texts on classism in America ever written.

  6. It could easily be considered something of a free verse type thing. It certainly has the power of the best poetry. It has something important to say, and does so in a very succinct, distinctive way. I’ve added my own link to this at my blog – the more people see this, read it, think about it, the better.

  7. Good Gravy, has it really been a YEAR?

    Where does the time go…..I remember being up late right after you originally posted it and being immediately struck with something words can’t convey completely. Thank you, again – for sharing so much with others.

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