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“What I Wouldn’t Do” by Dorianne Laux
1. Can you paraphrase the poem if necessary? Yes. The poem is about a person describing all the jobs she has had over the years, concluding that the one job she would not do again would be a phone telemarketer because she did not like to hear the disappointment in the voices on the other end of the phone when they realized it was just a salesperson calling. 2. Who is the speaker in the poem? How would you describe this persona? Ms. Laux has worked as a sanatorium cook, a gas station manager, a maid, and a donut holer before receiving a B.A. in English from Mills College in 1988; therefore, I think she used her own life experience to write this poem (Dorianne). In an online posting, Dorianne Laux explains, “’Every poem I write, I write for myself, to relieve some pressure, to try to get something right. I want the viewer, or reader, to see what I’ve seen, to know it the way I’ve known it…’” (Guest). 3. What is the speaker’s tone? Which words reveal this tone? Is the poem perhaps ironic? The speaker describes the different dead-end jobs she has had in a positive way, happily noting, “all / the onion rings I could eat / cleaning houses was fine / liked the donut shop best…” (Laux, 4-5, 12, 29). At the end of the poem, the tone saddens with the description of her telemarketer job. “It wasn’t that I hated calling them… / It was that moment / of expectation, before I answered back / the sound of their held breath / their disappointment when they realized / I wasn’t who they thought I was…” (35, 39-43). I feel sorry for her, as she expresses the sadness she felt. 4. What heavily connotative words are used? What words have unusual or special meanings? Are any words or phrases repeated? If so, why? Which words do you need to look up? This poem is very straightforward. There is no hidden meaning between the lines, just a wonderful poet pouring out her emotions on paper. 5. What...
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