cover image SHUT UP, SHUT DOWN


Mark Nowak, . . Coffee House, $15 (150pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-163-9

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.)