After bracing myself for reviewing journals whose explorations of daily life tended to the abstract, it was high time to read prose and poetry from writers who didn't emulate Kafka when writing about work, bureaucracy, and class. Blue Collar Review's Spring edition serves it up straight – no-nonsense formatting, clear print, solid storytelling over pyrotechnics.
Yes, some of the poems are blunt and simple, with barely a need for scansion, but their messages are clear – from this issue's editorial:
This collection speaks to the anger and seeming hopelessness we feel as well as to the humanity and vision we carry like a precious fragile inheritance. The sharing of that awareness and vision through the power of this literature lets others know they are not alone. It feeds and strengthens the class awareness upon which our future depends.
This was a good journal to read on my commute, as it kept my mind on the things I think about every day: Work relationships, fairness. Clocks that, in John Grey's words,
gifted three generations cancer.
The fourth, it just crippled.
It tore a hole in a heart.
It stitched it back up worse than shabbily.
Fred Voss's "Scrapyards and Graveyards" fuses man and machine into a shared obsolescence, Helen Ruggieri's "Salvation by Filing" feels the pain of life spent alphabetizing, and Justin Rogers's "Hod Carrier Blues" puts the rhythm of masons to paper. But writers don't stick to the factory-floor perspective: John Grochalski's "Puppets and Puppet Masters" has a middle manager spiraling into the fraternity of "all those sad men who sat across from me / the ones who smelled of cigarettes and coffee / the ones who reeked of failure and defeat" – those who fire or get fired.
If you liked OFFICE SPACE, you'll love "Workplace Success" by Marisa Carchesio, and if you missed the way newspapers used to report non-sensational stories in depth, you'll appreciate "More Bars Than Anyplace Else" by Ray Brown. It's truly lyrical, plainspoken work that I loved reading again and again, and I don't even want to summarize it, so I don't spoil its surprises.
I will read future issues of this journal – it lives here and now, and trades ambiguity for telling its truth urgently.