‘Interview’ by Daya Dissanayake is a seventeen line poem which is contained within one block of text, without breaks for stanzas. The poem is not structured with a consistent rhyme scheme. Instead, the poet has chosen to describe his feelings for the modern societal systems through simplistic detail. This choice forces a reader to add to the narrative with their own experiences.
One might also notice, before even beginning the poem, that there is no punctuation in the entire text. Additionally, the poet has chosen to make each line very short, a number of which contain only one word.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that he has not brought his resume. This line, taken in tandem with the title of the poem, ‘Interview,’ makes it clear that he is attending a job interview. Rather than coming prepared to sell himself, he has brought nothing. There is no record of who is he or what experience he has.
The following lines make this clear as the blanks for “Name,” “Address” and “Date of birth” are left empty. The choice to leave so much empty space within the text of the poem allows a reader to fill in their own details. This poem is able to access the reader’s own life, making it all the more poignant.
In the next few lines the speaker goes through some of the educational qualifications he might have. He is not seeking out one job in particular, anything will do. The speaker refuses to sell himself to the institution.
In the second half of the poem the narrative moves on the describe a metaphorical carpenter whose job it is to craft the “pegs” and the “holes” in which they fit. He has been doing it all wrong. There are infinitely more pegs than holes and to make things worse the pegs are square and the holes are round.
The speaker chastises him for this but makes sure to remind the reader that no one is actually doing anything to change the state of the world. Men and women will continue to force themselves into roles they were not made for.
You can read the full poem Interview here.
Analysis of Interview
The speaker begins this piece in the middle of a situation which is quite common throughout the world. He has come into an interview and sat down to speak, presumably, with the owner, manager, or prospective boss. One will immediately notice when starting the poem, or even just when glancing at the text that it has very few lines and a minimal amount of descriptive phrases.
This choice by Dissanayake to keep so much of the narrative up for interpretation allows a speaker to project their own experiences onto the situation. One will need to refer to things they’ve either been through or seen happen, to give a proper setting to the brief encounter.
In the first line the speaker states that he has not brought his “C.V” with him. This is an engaging first line and a very bad start to an interview. He has somehow, or for some specific reason, decided not to bring his resume with him. The next lines list out a number of different elements which would be included on a C.V.
The straightforward, emotionless, way that these items are broken down might lead a reader to interpret an amount of disdain on the part of the speaker. Perhaps he has decided it should not be necessary for him to provide this information. One will understand more about his decision in the following lines.
Some of the items the speaker lists as parts of his nonexistent C.V. are his…
Date of birth-
The way that these items are listed with a dash following each phrase should encourage a reader to add in their own information when reading the text. This is another choice made by Dissanayake to insert the reader into the experience.
The next lines move on from basic information to that which concerns one’s education. The speaker mentions the “G.C.E. O/L” or the General Certificate of Education which is used as standard qualifying test throughout Great Britain, as well as in Sri Lanka, where Dissanayake is from.
The following line speaks of the “A/L” which stands for the Advanced Level qualification exam used in Sri Lanka. “Bio” or biology is one subject in which one might be tested. The speaker then makes reference to “one C, Two S” which is the level at which he finished the examination.
In the concluding line of this section the speaker says that, “any job will do.” He is not trying to prove or sell himself. He’ll take whatever is given to him.
The next lines expand on the speaker’s disdain for the system in which he is forced to operate if he wants a job. He describes the world as being made out of…
One hundred thousand
These pegs represent the people who are searching for an occupation or career. All of humankind is trying to find somewhere they belong but the holes are all “round.” These people are seeking out a productive path and through this process the world forces them to become round.
This section concludes with the speaker calling out the “carpenter,” who represents the institutions which shape the world. He states that the “carpenter / keeps on turning out” square pegs. These will never fit in the existing holes, although humankind has no choice but to try.
In the final three lines the speaker states that although the world is facing a huge problem with men and women unable to find happiness within a societies which forces them to transform, no one is doing anything about it.
There is no one who has taken the time to “tell him,” referring to the carpenter, that the holes which do exist are “round” and his “square pegs” will never fit in them. If anything, he needs to be making more holes rather than more unhappy pegs.