Tim Shaner

Two Pieces

The Institute of Loafing

The Institute of Loafing began accidentally. It was not planned. It came to me through the

act of writing, though, true, at the time, it was the wrong kind of writing, as it was the

writing of fiction (even if anti-fiction fiction) instead of the non-fiction I were tasked to

do. Thinking back on it, it is the product of hard work, the hard work of getting the job

done, hard work I spent most of the time avoiding, loafing

The pressure to make something of all that loafing is what produced the idea of the

Institute, but it was like I had to loaf to get the job done

I was thinking of starting up a blog called the Institute of Loafing (IOL), but I wonder

whether I’ll have the gumption to do much with it, to write much in there, on any kind of

regular basis. Of course that would be in keeping with the idea of loafing. I’m afraid

there’d be next to nothing to it as I’ll do nothing with it, loafing as I do

If I were to blog, I was thinking, I’d have to deal with the contradiction between loafing

and institutionalization. Wouldn’t one negate the other

But while the Institute of Loafing was a natural outgrowth of the hard work of writing my

dissertation, it did not in fact surface there but in another byproduct of writing my

dissertation: I HATE FICTION, which is a product of what they call “goofing off,” but

which is, properly speaking, an act of loafing

Btw, if anyone wants to publish IHF, by all means let me know, as I’m just too into

loafing to attend to that side of things, the business side of poetry; it’s like grading

papers—the teaching part’s great, but then comes exchange value

Since loafing is an act, an action, it does produce something, something that is sometimes

quite concrete, certainly more concrete than one’s daily labors, generally speaking; in

one hole, out the other

I’d say “trying to write my dissertation,” but in fact I wrote my dissertation, completed it,

and so it wasn’t in the end a matter of trying even if for the longest time that’s all I was

doing. For the longest time, all I was doing was trying. For the longest time, I comforted

myself with the thought that, although all the trying seemed like nothing other than trying

and no doing—though, true, the trying involved doing—all the trying would in the end

become doing if I managed somehow to complete the dissertation. Hence, what seemed

all along like all trying and no doing, and thus utter failure, would, if successful, simply

become what it is I had to do to get the job done, thereby transforming, in an instant,

loafing into work

For a long time I thought the Institute of Loafing would have to be a real place, a place where

you’d go for seminars on loafing by experts on loafing. That you’d go off for a

weekend retreat at the Institute of Loafing or a weeklong one. Maybe we could get

accredited and offer seminars on a semester by semester accredited basis, however much

that may contradict the very idea, the very spirit of loafing

I also thought of including live loafing, streaming constantly on my would-be blogspot.

Where people could go to observe (and learn from) poets loafing. Poets because poets are

experts at loafing. The experts. Some are, at least. Others are way too busy for it

Walt Whitman obviously was a loafer and of course he wrote about it. Surely Walt is

somewhere behind the idea of the Institute of Loafing, though he’d probably hate the

institute side of it, as do I. Of course, it’s not really an institute

But the institute idea is not the same thing as institutionalizing loafing. In my mind,

institute is just a way to get the humans to pay attention to loafing today. Without

“institute“ there’d be no Institute of Loafing and hence no attention paid to loafing and

hence less loafing. Loafing would remain strictly private, disconnected from other more

rewarding forms of loafing. Privatized loafing, which is rampant. If there was no institute

in loafing, the humans would spend their time trying not to think about loafing, which

only makes them feel guilty the more they loaf, guilty because it’s a privatized form of

loafing, which, of course, is why they need to go to the Institute of Loafing

There are of course different kinds of loafing. Some are better than others. That is to say,

there are bad forms of loafing and in fact these bad forms proliferate and have as such

given loafing a bad name. Bad loafing has doomed us and that’s why we’d just assume

not think about our loafing. Only an institute like The Institute of Loafing can redeem it

for us, can make us think about loafing, eventually getting to thinking about the good

kind of loafing, the kind that can save us

Loafing can help save the planet, perhaps. Certainly learning how to loaf again can help

us save the planet, or at least it can help us save the planet from becoming hostile to our

“way of life,” our life itself. Hostile to us, the planet our enemy, just when we thought we

were in charge

We’ll print out “loafer” pins and t-shirts and hats and bumper stickers, perhaps, if we

have the gumption

Not that you’re going to stop laboring; though, true, loafing replaces the labor privatized

loafing is, and will, if we will, eat into labor’s time, ideally, knocking it down to size

Exercising can be part of the loafing life, but it is not a form of loafing. So often

exercising is the negation of loafing. Some of those who are prone to exercising have the

hardest time loafing. They know not how to loaf. And often are prone to abhor loafing

and the loafing life

Walking, the kind that’s not exercising, is certainly a great form of loafing, especially the

kind where you’re like loafing when you’re walking; loafing can be exercising, but not

the other way around

Loafers are not slackers, though they are often mistaken as such. Perhaps it takes a

loafer’s eye to see loafing for what it is. Slackers have a loafing spirit, but are too caught

up in productivity, finally. Loafers do at times slack off, of course, thank goodness

One might think my interest in poets and work (labor) means I’m interested in work

(labor) when my focus on work (labor) has only to do with my interest in loafing (work)

Loafers tend not to be power walkers. They may very well walk quickly though when

they’re loafing. But not because they are power walking or bound for anywhere

I’ve known many a fast walker and I can assure you they were headed nowhere

Twelve Poems from The Institute of Loafing


This poem is like an
Eileen Myles poem,
like one of those ones
in sorry, tree or not me


And this one’s like
Rodrigo Toscano
like anything out of
to leveling swerve


I don’t know just
so it seems
like totally right
for this moment,
this age or decade
not in retrospect
but right


But I want it also
to be Rae
before everyone
knew who
she was


Though it could very well be
something recent, of that


This one’s Charles Bernstein’s
thank you for saying
thank you though it may be
Charles Reznikoff too


For a while it was
Appolinaire’s zone

Then came Tarkovsky


And what about Ken
Smith who died suddenly
after a stint in Cuba, no
doubt having a hell of a
time, knowing Ken


But this is becoming
something like a list

so I’ll now

into a new thing
yet to be


Something previously un
imaginable yet seemingly
inevitable now that it’s


Yes, yes, yes

Like when harry
met sally

Easily as easy
as that


Any thing
Tan Lin

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