by Mark Nowak, Amiri Baraka (Afterword)
In the grand, narrative tradition of Gwendolyn Brooks and Edward Sanders, this riveting collection of poetic plays and photo-documentary poems exposes the human cost of corporate greed and gives voice to the growing crisis faced in communities across America.
"The several long poems that make up this book build into each other with devastating force and understatement, breaking poetic boundaries, regenerating the rich tradition of working-class literature."-Adrienne Rich
Mark Nowak is the author of the critically acclaimed debut book of poems Revenants, the editor of Xcp: Cross Cultural Poetics and the co-editor of Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings After the Detours. He grew up in Buffalo, New York and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is active in the labor movement.
Like the acclaimed journal he edits, Xcp: Cross Cultural Poetics, Nowak's second full-length collection samples and arranges different kinds of texts (oral history, journalism, etymology and grammar) from a class-conscious perspective; the result is a provocative narrative of disenfranchisement. The five serial poems are a mix of prose, short compressed lyrics and photos; their artfulness is often located in the spaces between and combinations of different registers: "I get angry easily. I feel like swearing all the time. At times, I feel like/ smashing things. At times, I feel like picking a fistfight with someone./ */ Fancy Pants/ Topless Dance/ industrial dreams/ kept alive by machines." "Capitalization" documents the Reagan administration's breaking of the air traffic controllers' union strike and the personal consequences for the workers: "The decision whether to arrest/ a particular employee, they agreed,/ depended upon the amount of evidence/ gathered by the FBI/ and on discretion/ of local United States attorneys./ Capitalize the first word/ of each item in an outline:/ 1. Attracting attention/ 2. Creating desire/ 3. Convincing the mind/ 4. Stimulating action." Also sharp is "Hoyt Lakes/ Shut Down," covering the alienating effects of plant and factory closings on workers and juxtaposing personal narratives and layoff figures within the poems. Nowak's poems articulate capitalism's breaking points as they subsume actual people. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A poet and labor activist heralded by Adrienne Rich for "regenerating the rich tradition of working-class literature," Mark Nowak regularly leads transnational poetry workshops between American and international trade unions. The author of Revenants and Shut Up Shut Down, he has also been a contributor to the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog.
Paperback: 150 pages