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Every poem’s like gold

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I’m not proud of my address,
In the torn-up town, no post code envy
Royals, Lorde

For one of my classes, I had to stitched together a themed poetry/song anthology aimed at young adults. My anthology, Price Tag Hypnotic Theories, was inspired by a fortunate encounter with the pop song Royals by Lorde. I forget how or when I first heard it, but I soon tracked it down on YouTube and listened to it over and over and over and over and over again. A few days later, at Job Corps, a federal vocational training program for youth ages 16 to 24, someone’s phone rang out playing this song.

Perhaps, it was a sign or the sound of things to come.

The song speaks candidly about feeling envious and somewhat disdainful of the extravagant haves, but the singer doesn’t see herself as a have not. I was left wondering what this song says to a generation of young workers (16 to 30) whose economic prospects have been blighted by the ongoing effects of the Great Recession. According to recent reports, the unemployment rate for youth, at 15.9%, is double the national average, and for African-American youth, it is 24.9%.

When Lorde sings “We count our dollars on the train to the party./ And everyone who us knows that we’re fine with this,/ We didn’t come from money,” is this acceptance or resignation? Does a young worker feel hope hearing “That kind of luxe just ain’t for us,” or does she hear the echo of Langston Hughes’ “a dream deferred” that I heard.

I enjoyed Lorde’s song, even though there are some criticisms of her position in relation to Black culture. But what I appreciate most about the song, is not the song itself. It was not the gold. The song became the first marker on my treasure map, inspiring my search, pointing the way to work like Curtis L. Crisler’s Hypnotics.

Here, there’s nothing to offer, nothing but try.
You try to take a chance by snatching the pearls,
handed down from a matriarch of the southern
migration, of some friend’s grandmother, or
you run to suburbs—work it legit, if you
got chameleon skills.

And Patricia Lockwood’s Government Spending

all the spending of the space program in me,
the stars seem especially close, this is because
they are a government handout, they are spending
millions on moonlight research

And Michelle Tea’s McDONALD’S

I ate the burger
because I only had
two dollars.
I had three but one
for the bus
had seven earlier
needed cigarettes
iced tea.

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