Why I Love Anchor Glass

I love Finishing Line Press and not just because this chapbook publishing company published Stealing Dust.  I discover many new poets through Finishing Line — poets who I don’t think I would find in other venues.  My most recent find is Anchor Glass by Karen Dietrich.

The setting for this slim volume of poetry is a small factory town in Pennsylvania — much like the setting of many of my works.  The narrator in “Certainty” explains this place clearly while depicting an eighth grade classroom:  “We were learning to be good citizens/remembering to fan the Youghiogheny/flowing past coke ovens nailed into grass/river rushing cold over our heads/while we slept in houses/our parents paid for with their bodies/their lungs exhaling ash so fine/it barely darkened our dreams.”

The factory is a dominant force in this collection’s narrative poems.  In one poem, “Factory” the narrator describes the building as a “subterranean staircase” that lingered far after the workers returned home:  “Nighttime your furnace breath puffed like a train/across the river, across other bodies coughing for air/your sulfur lungs burning the bedroom black.”  In another poem, “Night Shift”  a daughter fears for her father’s life as she watches him pack his lunch: “wax paper sandwiches, small cellophaned cakes, hard white icing/glass bottles of cola with red paper labels.”

The factory is also part of the domestic life found in some of these poems.  In “Inhaling” the narrator describes laundry chores: “Over clothesline, mother slings/wet work pants like dead bodies/buttons for eyes, rusted zippers for teeth.” 

Dietrich grew up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  With a brief bit of research, I discovered that Anchor Glass closed its factory in Connellsville in 2004.  So in many ways, her book is a respectful homage to little factory towns — a landscape that seems to be disappearing.

When I read the poet’s bio, I discovered a big surprise.  Karen Dietrich attended the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg — the same campus where I first discovered my love of working-class poetry, and the same campus where I received my degree in English literature.  While I am quite sure there is a huge age difference between us (I graduated from Pitt quite a few years ago), I’m excited to read work from another poet from my campus.  And I’m excited about Dietrich’s work — this sample of writing makes me only want to see more.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] Anchor Glass by Karen Dietrich (Finishing Line Press) Dietrich’s chapbook debut is a respectful homage to little factory towns – especially little factory towns in Pennsylvania. See my complete review of this chapbook here. […]

  2. […] have followed Dietrich’s work as a poet (see my review about her chapbook Anchor Glass here), and I preordered The Girl Factory over six months ago.  It didn’t disappoint.  In an age […]


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