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Blue Collar Review - Spring 2015

  • Image: Image
  • Issue Number: Volume 18 Issue 3
  • Published Date: Spring 2015
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly
Blue Collar Review: Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature is a small, targeted magazine filled with voices insisting on being heard. The editorial introduction to this issue states, “Poems in this collection speak of both the pride and the misery of work. They flesh out the real insecurity and resentment of underpaid and tenuous jobs and the seeming hopelessness of unemployment.”

Actually, very few subjects appear to be off-limits in this journal. Stewart Acuff goes after a congressman in “Richest Member of Congress,” Michael S. Morris tackles troubles in the world in “It’s A Good Thing We Remember,” and Pam O’Brien writes a moving poem called simply “Work,” about the 1892 Pittsburgh steel workers strike.

Of the 43 poems featured, one is by Anonymous, and several of the named poets have multiple pieces. The cover features the striking 1943 painting “Ironers” by Jacob Lawrence.

Anger, frustration, and irritation are not glossed over, though some poets choose a more subtle approach. In “Remote Control,” Dana Stamps II takes on the workings of a group home and the dilemma of knowing the right thing to do. Ken Poyner in “Travels” writes an original exploration into souvenirs people buy while traveling. And his “Theme” ends:
Oh no, you say, our Middle East
Is not your Vietnam, and I say
Of course not, never,
In no way could they be confused.
Vietnam had more trees.
Here are some lines from Neal Wilgus’ list poem, “Crazy Stories,” a little more on the humorous side:
The Invasion From Quality Control
Assault in the Battery Room
Restroom Rescue
The Adventure of Enhanced Security
Among the less subtle poetry is Michael Conner’s “Beans,” which blasts higher education building fund drives. From “Manifesto # 94,” by Robert Edwards: “Now is the time / to make a few enemies / to burn a few bridges [ . . . ].” And from “Droning On” by Ed Werstein: “You don’t want to think about your tax dollars / our tax dollars killing innocent people.”

Mike Faran in “Factory” ponders whether he will “ever quit the factory”:
My song is here.
My god is an emerald slick of oil that
glistens on a cement slab floor
where one could dance
Poet Marie H. Lewis, from “Walk By on the Other Side”:
by miseducation
by prejudice
by natural reactions to physical unattractiveness
by having survived too few years
by having survived too many years
Sarah M. Lewis tells of “Sacrifices”:
Sweet Sue,
bright, talented in art, kind too.
She looked after every sick relative or their kids,
so they decided that’s what she should do
and pulled her out of school.
Timothy Brennan give us a vivid look at the life of a “Roofwalker”: “My young back bent to men’s work. / I sucked in odors of tar and late summer decay / Like milk from the cows lazing below.”

At the top of my favorites is “Salvage” by Alana Merritt Mahaffey. She produces images not soon forgotten:
Skeptical, I nonetheless wonder why
Bibles and pornography never burn. We find them, untouched, at bedsides
and under coffee tables, even as
the family dog is curled like a blackened
apostrophe around such things. [ . . . ]

                           [ . . . ] I pull a firehose

through a museum of their lives, an exhausted curator.

I looked for contributors’ notes in the last pages. To my disappointment, there were none, though city of residence is given with each poet’s poem.

A boxed message mid magazine advertises back issues with the words “Powerful Collections Unfortunately Still Timely,” a fitting slogan for this magazine of often unheard voices.
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Review Posted on September 15, 2015

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