For a Living: The Poetry of Work

Nicholas Coles, Editor, Peter Oresick, Editor
Nicholas Coles, Editor, Peter Oresick, Editor University of Illinois Press $26 (432p) ISBN 978-0-252-02122-0
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-252-06410-4
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This substantial collection surveys many different kinds and styles of laboring in poems by contemporary writers ranging from Cornelius Eady's ``Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?'' to Deb Casey's pleasurably frenetic account of a mother who must drive her children to various appointments (``ZOOOOOOOM''). For some tastes, the book will seem too long, and its type overly small and tight, but Coles and Oresick, who have collaborated previously on Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life, have clearly chosen to include as much as possible in order to illuminate a theme: not just work but ``nonindustrial'' work, that of a short-order cook, a woman giving birth, a baseball coach, even a scholar in pursuit of tenure. The poems themselves comprise a sort of corps, linked by mostly humble callings and their habits. Edward Hirsch describes the ``vague feeling of panic'' overtaking a subway commuter; Dana Gioia elegantly evokes the Andersonian epiphany of an overworked office employee. Excerpts from Louis Simpson's series, ``The Associate,'' wryly recount life at a book publishing company. But of course, it's the language, and not the job, that recommends the poetry. (Dec.)
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