Here are four titles that demonstrate the social, political and economic contexts in which creative writing takes place, a land of struggle, yes, but also and more importantly: a land of hope and dreams.
1. Fire and Ink
Fire and Ink is a powerful and impassioned anthology of stories, poems, interviews, and essays that confront some of the most pressing social issues of our day. Designed to inspire and inform, this
collection embodies the concepts of “breaking silence,” “bearing witness,” resistance, and resilience. Beyond students and teachers, the book will appeal to all readers with a commitment to social justice. It’s appeal may well also be its sheer size, which perhaps mitigates the $32.95 cost a little . . .
2. Seeds of Fire
Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA
Seeds of Fire brings together the work of over fifty poets from the other USA – including Adrienne Rich, Fred Voss, Grace Paley, Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez and Martín Espada.
Lyrical, satirical, raging and prophetic, they bear witness against the crippling nationalism promoted by the ruling political parties and corporate media in the United States. They seek solidarity with the impoverished and war-torn working classes around the world against the forces of imperial slaughter, environmental catastrophe and social disintegration.
Because this was published in England, it will be difficult to find, but can be ordered. At 124 pp and about $10 (used) it is affordable and portable as well as incisive!
3. Poetry Like Bread
Poets of the Political Imagination from Curbstone Press
Edited by Martín Espada
“Poetry, like bread, is for everyone.”
from the poem “Like You” by Roque Dalton
Since 1975, Curbstone Press has published works by a unique group of writers: political activists, feminists, guerrilla combatants, “independistas” from several countries, as well as ordinary working people from many parts of the world — the U.S., Latin America, Vietnam, Europe, Eastern Europe. What all these poets share is an affinity for that place “where art and politics intersect.” Unique among poetry anthologies, Poetry Like Bread contains works by poets whose imaginations are fueled by political realities.
The current edition is expanded from the original edition and sells new for $15.95 and spans 281 pages.
4. American Working Class Literature An Anthology
edited by Nicholas Coles and Janet Zandy $57.95 Aug 2006 ISBN13: 9780195144567ISBN10: 0195144562
America’s workers have been singing, reciting, performing, telling stories, writing, and publishing for more than three centuries. Ranging from early colonial times to the present, this groundbreaking anthology presents more than 300 literary texts that exemplify this tradition. In its attempt to be inclusive, this volume swells to over 900 pages and begins with excellent introductory remarks by the editors on the concepts “American,” “Working,” “Class,” “working class,” and “literature.” These notes prepare the reader situate these writings from the 17th to the 21st centuries within this relatively new discipline called “working class studies.”
Despite its bulk, the volume manages to miss significant authors, but in so doing the editors select writings and genres we might not even consider and therefore open doors for us to walk through.
One recommendation: there are many songs included in this anthology, and to appreciate them properly it is wise to read and listen at the same time — Leadbelly, Pete Seeger’s “American Industrial Ballads,” Bucky Halker’s many recordings of labor songs, Utah Phillips (I’m especially fond of his disc with Ani Difranco called “Fellow Workers”), and Cisco Houston’s “The Folkway Years” are some places to start. Given the historic importance of the coal mines and the musical tradition, it’s not surprising to find the songs and stories of the miners an important part of this anthology.
“Coal Mining Women” includes the voices and songs that have become anthems, e.g. Florence Reece singing “Which Side Are You On.”
Read from these four books; you will have no difficulty choosing sides!