HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

April 21, 2008
In Praise of the Blue Collar Review
A Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature

John R. Guthrie


Blue Collar Review is a labor of love on the part of Editor Al Markowitz and Co-Editor Mary Franke.

Blue Collar Review editor Al Markowitz States that:

When we began this project, it was top fill a void…to demonstrate the possibilities of
strong working class literature to show ‘how it’s done.’ Our hope continues to be that
this journal would be a shining example that would inspire other journals as well as
our fellow workers and the poets among us; that it would spark a rebirth of this powerful
reality-based genre setting ablaze the larger culture with our vision.

No small order this. How well has Editor Markowitz succeeded in his quest?

Let’s consider some examples.


From the Winter 2004-2005 Issue

McElroy provides a thoroughly abstract poem yet one that is quite accessible for the thoughtful reader. This dreamlike poem also has some with some exquisite similes and fresh and incisive word choices.

Woman Reading, Dreaming

On two twenty four the snow begins.
Doctors spin in ditches and we’re on our own.
The book is blue and bendy, best kind,
and the lady in the spine is having a baby.
Our Dear Reader, Leilani, let’s say, skims pages,
ignores the chicken in the ginger patch
clucking to the mauve dawn.
It say here feedlot sheep in slush are ecru,
and the gates of life don’t dilate.

At twenty thousand feet our love interest flies
home in trouble. The weather’s baroque, engine’s out,
and his captain is chic but dull and good, best kind.
the North Pacific is explained since God,
but on  the panel the damned gages beguile.
Double space.
The uterus clamps its bag of muscle.
We’re born like toothpaste in a storm. We can’t
go back  Our home, viviparous; the plot, breach.


What’s her name dreams she’s reading on a red bed.
Trade winds enter the screen, wander room
room to room. Like in-laws looking
for good books. Next door in air rich
with chickens nothing’s louder than Bach,
darkly perky. Engaged, head down,
ideas kick black water hard while sunroom
curtains puff chintz in a cool chartreuse.

What child comes riding? What dream?
What barging through business pidgin to the depot
on the beach of a bed? Don’t argue
with a woman in transition. Sing.
Sing plywood, rebar, Portland cement and thyroid.
Sing sternum, fingers and toes, bills of lading
from the continent. Now push, push for the lady
alone in the snow and her sister, the doctor in the ditch.

Push the airplane home on procedure
where the pros shake hands. Push corny
for the future: plumeria sweet forever in regular
weather, sheep ever steady in a windy
pastoral, and grow children you want despise
in fading days. Bring ladders, bring hammers, music
and milk, box of blue vowels, pails of green fern.
Bring crocus and thrush. Bring soap. Kiss
your language in and nail the daylight down. 

                                                         --McElroy


From the Winter 2007-2008 Issue

Will Inman’s terse, in-your-face “I Didn’t Know” is grimly, sadly, ironically funny. For the optimists among us, it provides hope that things do change,   that justice will arrive, if only by the millimeters.

I Didn’t Know

early 1950’s
head of naacp in winston-salem
phoned an order for diaper service
for his and his wife’s first born.
laundry serviceman stands on one  foot.
and then the other
sorry, he said, but we
don’t do colored babies’ laundry.

well, I knew
you segregated school and churches,
medical facilities, hospitals and dentists.
i knew you even segregated god
but I didn’t know you segregated shit.

--Will Inman


From the Summer 2005 Issue

“The Tree Climber’s Husband” is one of this writer’s favorites from this journal. It has a gritty reality to it, well-earned eroticism and vivid imagery that summons the reader as witness to the tree climber and her husband’s intimate greeting.

The Tree Climber’s Husband
after Dorianne Laux

Dusk brims over the side of the horizon
during her long drive home.

Spurs and lanyards clang like giant keys
when she drops her gear at the door.

He waits until her boots are off before opening
Carefully they only let lips touch:

Her clothes are thick with poison
oak oil; he helps her out of them.

Fir and fern wash over like a breeze.
Her socks, still wet from sweat.

He slides her pans from her legs
Her arms spread like branches as he lifts her shirt

and reveals her breasts hidden
like nests where voles and owls live.

She wraps her limbs around him
and guides him through her understory.

The forest floor under he fingernails,
her hair smells of dried twigs,

Her ankles lock as she readies
for the long drive home and dusk

brimming over.

--Eric Wayne Dickey


So there you have it; three examples of poems from the Blue Collar Review. As with any literary journal, there is some unevenness of quality from one poem to another. I personally don’t know of any literary journal of which this is not true. What is refreshing is that every issue of BCR has its gems. The poetry there tends to be straight forward, and unabashedly supports social justice issues. It fills an important and all too often neglected niche in our literary community.

Subscriptions are available, $15 for one year, $25 for two years.

Check or money order to:

Partisan Press
P.O. Box 11417
Norfolk, Virginia 23517

See also the Blue Collar Review webpage for contest and other information: http://www.angelfire.com/va/bcr/


John R. Guthrie is a former Marine infantry rifleman. He then garnered a formal education to include medical school and became the commanding officer of a U.S. Navy Reserve Shock Surgical Group before going into private practice in the Smoky Mountain foothills of Appalachia. He is the editor and publisher of the monthly webzine The Chickasaw Plum: Politics and the Arts Online. (Link)


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