Friday, March 18, 2011

Been Working on the Auto Line: Working Words

I've lived in Washington for about five years now, but I don't really feel like a Washingtonian.  I'm not sure how that is supposed to feel.  I don't even know the state flower, or song, or motto.  I'm not even sure we have them, although surely the state senate got bored some time and elected them all.  I'm a bit dubious of most forms of state pride, in fact, not just for Washington but in general.  But anything that leads people to make book lists can't be all bad.  I'm doing a challenge based on Michigan's list right now.  Why Michigan? Because I stumbled across their challenge.  I wonder if other states have Notable Book lists too? Hmm.

The first book I picked was Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams, which celebrates the words and deeds of laborers in America, drawing as much as possible from their own words, poems, and stories.  M. L. Liebler groups the poems, fiction, and essays alphabetically, which leads to some whipsawing between coal mining and assembly line working, between agitating for the right to organize to watching the jobs move overseas.  I wonder what it would have felt like chronologically, but that would be hard since some works move between eras.  As a whole, the book gives a strong impression of the power of work, sometimes the power to grind down a soul, sometimes the power to expand it.

I pulled a few poems for my poetry notebook, which is a good sign in a poetry book, and I'm glad Jumping the Candlestick held her Michigan challenge to inspire me to read it.  And I'll post this on a Friday so I can do a Poetry Friday thing like all the cool people. B

1 comment:

Debbie Diesen said...

Beth, I'm thrilled that the challenge led you to this book! The Michigan Notables list really has some great selections.

I heard M.L. Liebler speak at a bookstore about the development of the book. If you're interested, part of the discussion is available on YouTube:

Thanks again for participating in the Challenge. It's been a fun way for folks -- including me! -- to discover some books they might not have otherwise read. Happy Reading!