The Ways We Work

Everyone is posting recommendations for holiday lists, and the collections all look great, but I want to offer two suggestions for the blue-collar worker that is probably in many of us.

This past March marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.  If you don’t know much about this event, you can check the information found here.  Some working-class historians suggest that this tragic event is one of the most written about, and it’s certainly a topic of many poems.   A slim chapbook of poems, Walking Through a River of Fire: One Hundred Years of Triangle Factory Fire Poems, edited by Julia Stein and published by CC Marimbo, was released earlier this year commemorating the anniversary.  Stein includes some of the classic Triangle poems by Chris Llewellyn (from Fragments from the Fire) and Mary Fell (from Persistence of Memory), but there are many other poems that may not be so familiar, even to the working-class literature scholar. 

Another great collection?  Just last week I got a copy of Motif 3: All the Livelong Day edited by Marianne Worthington (MotesBooks). In this collection, the reader will find great poems from such poets as Barbara Cooker, George Ella Lyon, Clay Matthews, and Erin Keane.  (Yep — you will also find one work by yours truly.   “The Union Steward Switches Back to 3rd Shift” can be found on page 213.) 

Overall, What I liked most about this anthology was the sheer variety of poems and short stories about different types of work — there was domestic work, factory work, retail work. My favorite poem is “What Is Not There” by Eileen Malone about a young woman who shucks oysters for a living: “The owner pays her by the plate, replies/of course she can keep any pearl she finds/although there are no pearls in these oysters”.

You can find more information about Walking Through a River of Fire here.

You can find more information about Motif 3: All the Livelong Day here.


  1. Thanks, as always, for your recommendations.

    And I recommend River Styx 86, with your poem “All My Boyfriends Wore Beer Labels for Nicknames” in it! Just received.

  2. Karen Weyant Said:

    Wow! I don’t even have my copy yet — I’m in my office grading (well, avoiding grading finals!)

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