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Waiting for the Dead to Speak merges the personal with the political. Fanelli references 1970s punk rock pioneers like The Clash and other cultural references that serve to draw a connection between the poet and his industrial northeastern Pennsylvania hometown, or between him and his father. Often, the references serve as a way to show that despite differences, there are always some commonalities between father and son. At the heart of the book is a questioning of what remains once loved ones depart or relationships dissolve.