Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fall 2017 Editorial

This issue comes out on the anniversary of the disaster of a stolen election, in reality, a corporate coup. Our country, our rights and our basic life-line services are being systematically dismantled. Immigrant refugee roundups escalate along with harassment and arrests of those who stand publicly against fascism, corporate crime, and climate destruction. The most vulnerable among us are directly threatened by the cynical thieves plundering public funds to enrich themselves.

This has been a tough season, made tougher by families split along partisan lines even as we all suffer the results. Like a growing majority, the poets in this collection feel the pain first-hand and see through the filth and shallow media narratives to the core issue; the truth of an ugly system of anti-human corruption that threatens life itself for the insatiable greed of the few.

As poems in this this issue attest, we know the fear and subservience to bosses and landlords. We are aware that this system empowers them just as it dis-empowers us. We know we are poisoned, abused and discarded and by whom. Most of us feel trapped in this prison of work and debt awaiting the day we are abandoned to illness and poverty even as we watch the flimsy safety net being shredded.

What we have is each other. The strength of community cannot be underestimated. Our power together, united when we've finally had enough, is unstoppable. Standing in the way of our unity are tightly held delusions of alienated individualism, fear, and a sense of being powerless and alone. This is the culture we are fed to keep us in line. It is the oppressive paradigm we seek to overcome and replace with a more just and sustainable vision of community based in class awareness. This perspective enriches and empowers us to come together in overthrowing the yoke of corporate enslavement and emancipate ourselves. Only a working class culture of solidarity can replace corporate autocracy with cooperative democracy. This is the only hope we have to abolish exploitation and war, and to address not only our own oppression but the preservation of the biosphere on which we all depend.

Though this small journal cannot begin to achieve such a lofty and necessary goal as the transformation of the culture of a nation, we strongly believe working class writers and poets have a vital role in affecting cultural consciousness. The Blue Collar Review provides a rare venue for outreach and example. We need to spread issues around for as many readers as possible to experience.

We too are hard hit economically. We struggle to publish and mail a physical, print on paper journal with costs rising. We usually reserve our begging until the Winter issue, but meeting even basic expenses is tough with a staff of penurious retirees on fixed and barely livable incomes. In these times when the assurance and example of class unity and commitment are most needed, we must count on the support of our readers to keep our words in print though the next year. You can make tax-deductible contributions or buy collections via Paypal on our website, donate through the mail via the insert in this issue or consider becoming a Partisan supporter for only $10.00 a month. As a Partisan supporter you will not only be assuring the continuance of our journal and press but you will receive chapbook poetry collections. You will also receive four issues of the Blue Collar Review per quarter. You can slide them onto the shelves of your local bookstores. You can leave them in coffee houses, laundromats, your workplace lunchroom, or pass them on to fellow workers. Together, we can and must work to build the consciousness of interdependent and mutually responsible beloved community needed for a backlash of civilization to the present monstrosity.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Summer Editorial

Droughts, hurricanes, deadly heat waves, melting ice caps, warming seas, deadly storms and mass migrations long predicted, are now upon us. In these nightmarish times, this journal often feels like the fossil record, thus this issue's cover. Our summer issue deals with the inseparable issues of climate and war. This issue is no exception -- and like the times -- bleaker than most.

Poems in this collection deal with the rise of right-wing extremism and social division. They stand in opposition to racism and the persecution of immigrants. The reality of class war waged from above and the power of class consciousness as a uniting force long suppressed by those who profit from our division are fleshed out in these pages.

In memory of the devastation unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the shadow of monstrous threats of nuclear war emanating from the megalomaniacal sociopath-in-chief, we have poems of resistance to the insanity and criminal horror of nuclear war and the poisoning of our world and our bodies by nuclear power. The toxic, biosphere-killing disease of capitalism is called out in these pages along with the remedy of massive class unity.

This diseased system takes a hard toll on the vast majority of us. The poorest, the colonized, and despised minorities are the hardest hit. The abandonment of urban centers, of Puerto Rico and the continuing police violence against Black people demonstrate this.

Efforts to dumb down our society over the last few decades combined with the export of jobs and the replacement of workers by machines has been devastating to us as well, from the disappearance of needed skills to the rise of ignorant demagogues to power. Another result is the so-called "gig economy" which is nothing less than the desperation which emerges from the cynical abandonment of workers and the devolution of wage workers to "independent contractors." Several poems in this issue address this reality.

Our summer issue also announces the winner of the Working People's Poetry Contest. This year's winning poem, "Elegy for a Seamstress" by Don Narkevic speaks to the loss of basic skills over generations as productive professions gave way to less practical clerical work and service industry jobs.

Unlike the hopeless and depressing jeremiads that increasingly accost us, the militant anger, community, solidarity, realization of our shared experience and our firm commitment to resist and move forward, comes through in this and every issue of the Blue Collar Review. We're down, times are bleak and a livable future is in question, but we ain't out yet and we ain't givin' up.

The poem, "Living as Equals" by Angelo Mesisco, says it all: "we live as equals or not at all."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Solidarity with Texans

In hard times, our working class has to come together as a community, doing what we can to help each other out. Climate change is wreaking it's terror on Texas and the Gulf states. We are thinking of our Texas poets and contributors living through this terrible disaster -- flooded out of their homes and probably exposed to toxic pollution in that area of heavy petro-industry and refineries. Donations can be made through The Texas Workers Relief Fund.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


New from Partisan Press

An excerpt from the introduction by Robert Edwards --
Balk is a fierce book written from the front lines of the class war. It is angry and hopeful and defiant by turns. The ghosts of the Wobblies walk through these poems. Every worker who ever had to eat shit just to keep a job they desperately needed, or finally had enough and told a boss to go fuck themselves and walked out the door can relate to these poems.

What will it take to get our
States bankrupted and begging
like the out of work and discarded,
the old and ill tossed
to the angry streets
the moneyed smug feeding
like flies crazed on carrion
      from Tell Me

The poems of Balk are a broken diary of a worker's journey through suffering to solidarity. Balk could be looked on as a kind of long poem--built up out of many separate narratives--about a worker's life, fears, hopes and sometimes despair. In its own way, this is a working class Odyssey. Essentially, Markowitz has mythologized himself and so becomes transformed into Every Worker, and he has done it in such a way that he simultaneously becomes more human, more vulnerable.

The chill nervousness
of the scrutinized,
the sick tightness in the knotted gut
when the manager says,
step into my office.
       from P.I.S.S.

Balk is an act of testifying to one's own personal history of exploitation and a way of saying No! to the grinding machinery of Empire.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spring Editorial 2017

Our national crisis continues to deepen. The steady barrage of destructive attempts by the ruling corporate cabal to slash medical access to those most vulnerable; to eliminate worker rights, public safety, and environmental protection even while being held back, are taking a toll on us. The rise of blatant reaction, corruption and hate has many of us living in fear, especially undocumented economic refugees, immigrants, and targeted minorities -- Black, Hispanic, Gays and Women.

Anxiety, fear and depression are at record levels in our country. Some of the poems in this collection describe our desperation as well as the crushing reality of working conditions for those fortunate enough to have jobs.

The long festering division of working people along partisan lines has reached proportions not seen since the Civil War. In reality, this is a phony division cultivated to disempower us for the benefit of the ruling corporate oligarchy. We have been alienated from family and friends over splits not just between party identification but within it as both corporate parties struggle with deep divisions. The truth is that both parties serve the same corporate interests at our expense.

With fear and anxiety also come anger, solidarity and resistance. We strengthen each other emotionally and politically when we come together. For many, such political activity is a new and empowering experience. Some of the feedback we get from readers is about feeling comforted by the commonality and the solidarity evident in the work we publish. In showing that our experience and our struggles are shared, working class literature can be a uniting force.

This is a vital role we serve as class-conscious cultural workers. Our role is magnified in these volatile times when people live in fear and are awakened to resistance. As Naomi Kline makes clear in her new book, No Is Not Enough, Trump is attempting to turn our country into his company. Several of the poets in this issue recognize and write about this. Kline points out that Trump "is the logical conclusion to many of the most dangerous trends of the past half century. He is the personification of the merger of humans and corporations -- a one-man megabrand." By clearly revealing the reality of the corporatization of government -- of, by and for, the richest, he helps wake people up to the destructive and oppressive reality of capitalism. We must go beyond resistance and push a progressive, working class agenda forward.

This is what we have always been about. As vital as cultural workers and worker poets are, our effectiveness depends on our outreach. Pass this issue around. Back issues are available as well and are the history we have written together. They can be left where others are likely to find them. This is a collective effort. The fact that you are reading this issue is a testament to the support of our readers -- for which we are more than grateful. But support also happens by increasing the exposure of this vital poetry and the consciousness it embodies. Thanks again to all of you who contributed in our recent fund drive.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Poor People's Campaign

The fiery and powerful leadership of Rev. William Barber, who led Moral Mondays and has become a strong voice within the struggle for economic and racial justice has initiated a revival of Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign.

This new formation can be a powerful catalyst for unifying the movement across race and gender lines. Were we come in as poets and writers is that this organization recognized and includes the arts and poetry. Along with music and visual arts, poetry is posted on on their website and you can be contribute as well.

Partisan Press is proud to be an official endorser of this effort

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Winter Editorial

The new year finds us in a place which may be familiar to other countries like Argentina, Uganda or Europe of the 1930's but it is unfamiliar territory to us as Americans. With the rise to power through questionable means of blatant, uncouth, corporate thieves playing on racism and nationalism, the last illusions of legitimacy have vanished from our corrupted federal government. As I write this, the corporate and ideological extremists Trump has appointed are busy destroying and undermining the agencies they were chosen to "head" and to dismantle. What Trump's lunatic svengali, Steve Bannon describes as the "deconstruction of the Administrative State" is in reality an attempt to eliminate every obstacle to corporate profiteering including every worker safety, public health, civil right and environmental protection won in struggle over the last century.

The poems in this collection are responses to the frightening reality of empowered hate and unmitigated, myopic greed. Working people have always borne the brunt of systemic corruption and the avarice of the elite. We work ourselves to death, sacrificing our lives to pointless, often toxic monotony only to be discarded and scorned when we are no longer of use to them.

And yet, even in the face of the disastrous and seemingly overwhelming power aligned against us, we continue to hold on to our humanity, to resist misplaced anger, scape-goating and self-destruction. We continue to struggle for justice, for a civilization worthy of that name and for worker democracy.

The empowerment of illegitimate autocracy and arrogant idiocy has awakened a massive movement of citizen resistance which continues to grow. This movement did not magically appear out of the ether. Some of us have been active for decades but many of our less politicized brothers and sisters have had the luxury of illusion. Those illusions are now being stripped away, exposing the monstrosity of the corporate state for all to see. As more join in the effort to resist the worst of Trump's dangerous misleadership, a new movement is finding its feet. Is resistance enough? Is a return to less flagrant corporate leadership and the somnolence of middle-class illusions a worthy goal? The poem "Zombie Nation Awakes" asks this and demands more. The poem by Dana Stamps, II asks, "Should Poetry Matter More than it Does?" We firmly believe that, while poetry is no magical panacea, it has the power to inspire, empower, unite and to communicate important values and ideas.

That is what this journal exists to do. This may simultaneously be our most trying and most important moment. Culture shapes mindset. It is the internal program which defines the direction we go and the limits of what we can create. A commodified, alienating, militarized, misogynist, money and violence worshipping corporate culture brought us to this moment. We, as progressive working class poets, are a vital voice that must be heard if our humane working class culture of solidarity is to take hold, take pride and lead us to take what is rightfully ours. We need to expose more people to our work. Take this journal to your next meeting or demonstration. Pass around back issues. Leave them where others will find them.

This is our annual fund-drive issue and you will find a donation slip within. We are deeply thankful for the commitment of your contributions both of funds and of your writing. Together we must do everything we can to move beyond the insanity of this moment to a civilized, democratic future.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, Dispatches Editions, and Spuyten Duyvil Press are extremely happy to announce the publication of


Inaugural Poems to the Resistance

Edited by Michael Boughn, John Bradley, Brenda Cardénas, Lynne DaSilva-Johnson, Kass Fleisher, Roberto Harrison, Kent Johnson, Andrew Levy, Nathaniel Mackey, Rubén Medina, Philip Metres, Nita Noveno, Julie Patton, Margaret Randall, Michael Rothenberg, Chris Stroffolino, Tod Thilleman, Anne Waldman, Marjorie Welish, and Tyrone Williams

Available at

Half the proceeds to go to Planned Parenthood

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Fall Editorial

We face bleak, more dangerous times as this issue go to press. The empowerment of fascist leadership led by Donald Trump, his advisor Steve Bannon and his appointees -- a wrecking crew of corporate insiders, extremists and rabid militarists, is a direct threat to all of us. Even more dangerous than their ugly bigotry, anti-worker, anti-woman militancy and rabid xenophobia is the threat of climate denial at a time when our planet is at a dangerous precipice. We have every right to be frightened but we cannot allow ourselves to become paralyzed or hopeless.

These self-serving crooks want to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. They want to cut our pay, gut your retirement, privatize public education and undo climate progress including regulations on filthy fossil fuels. They vow to undo even the limited access to healthcare that many now have, to eliminate womens' right to control their own bodies and have life-saving abortions. They want to further undo Civil Rights legislation and voting rights, to further empower and militarize our police, to limit press and speech freedoms and further deregulate inadequately regulated banks and big business, creating new tax breaks for the wealthiest.

Trump's rise has been blamed on the working class, particularly white workers. We reject being tarred with that accusation from the corporate press and resentful Clinton democrats. Instead of blaming the hard-hit workers they ignored, or Putin, or anyone and everyone else, the sad truth is that Democrats ran an unpopular candidate who did everything possible to suppress progressives and alienate would be supporters. Many chose to stay home. As we wrote in the last issue, workers who did not vote or who voted for Trump are not our enemies. We as a class need each other and will need each other even more as we are forced to defend ourselves against the assault of arrogant and empowered reactionary corporate gangsters.

As a country, we have little to celebrate and much to dread in the months and years ahead. Now that the mask is off the beast of the voracious monstrosity of capitalism, we have never been in a better position to build a massive, united, progressive movement; not that it will be easy! We have to keep in mind that most people did not vote, that there are more progressives than there are reactionaries, and that many who did vote for Trump already regret it.

Along with public infrastructure and progressive institutions, critical artists and dissidents will be viciously targeted by Trump's minions and the hate-groups he has empowered. This includes us.

This issue marks 20 years of publishing the strongest voices of our working class. We did not decide to call ourselves Partisan Press because it rhymes with artisan. We are partisans in the continuing spirit of the anti-fascist fighters of the last century. We pledge to continue to fight with poetry and writing that matters, which speaks the truth and which promotes a vision of radical working class democracy. We can only do that with the support of our readers. There has never been a more important time to support our collective efforts and to come together as poets providing inspiration and needed insight to our fellow workers.

We are grateful for your words as well as your support. We remain committed to continuing through these harsh, trying times and together, surmounting and defeating fascist reaction.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

China On Strike

Behind the news and constant diatribes against China -- the country our government encouraged corporations to send our jobs -- things are far from peaceful. China has more citizen protests than we hear about. While some in China have benefited from massive imported industrialization, most Chinese have borne the brunt of pollution and horrendous exploitation. This has not happened without struggle as the new collection, China on Strike: Narratives of Workers’ Resistance by Eli Friedman, Zhongjin Li, and Hao Ren make clear. The authors write about their experience in Jacobin Magazine. It is good to see working class literature from China and to realize the necessity for global solidarity in the struggle against the monstrosity global corporate rule.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Summer Editoral

This issue comes out at the end of a hot summer in the hottest year since records have been kept. This collection emerges at a time of escalating war and tensions promoted to feed the military industrial economy at the expense of citizen needs. This issue emerges on the precipice of an election without winners in a sordid race between anger-driven nationalism tainted with bigoted xenophobia and an unpopular hawkish neo-liberal status-quo. Both candidates represent variants of fascism. While we hope Trump's variety of empty racist thugery is defeated, lack of support for Clinton is understandable.

The real government -- the CIA, military-industrialists and corporate oligarchy, will continue to rain death and disaster around the world no matter the outcome. Beyond the phony Punch and Judy show of elections, our struggle for ecological sanity, racial and economic justice emerges from this electoral season strengthened with new tools, organizations and creative tactics.

The support we've seen in this election for real alternatives and for the progressive movement, tapped by the Sanders campaign and even the misguided support for Trump in our economically gutted and robbed rust-belt, speak to the deep anger within the working class at the failure of capitalism. As this collection shows, we share that outrage. As progressives who know our class history of struggle, we must share that knowledge and vision with our brothers and sisters. As cultural workers, that is our responsibility.

Much of the poetry in this issue voices love of work and of our fellow workers as well as anger with those who exploit us. Poetry in this collection also focuses on the destruction of our biosphere and the growing climate disaster. This is the most important issue of our time. Our survival hangs in the balance and the odds are not good. Destruction of the environment cannot be disconnected from capitalism nor can it be adequately addressed in a system of corporate, greed-driven power. As we go to press, a major struggle is happening in North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux and corporate efforts to build a dangerous oil pipeline which threatens their lands and water. They are not alone. Around the country people are struggling against toxic assaults on our communities by fracking, mining and industrial pollution. Consciousness is growing of the corruption of government by corporate power and the subservience of our elected leaders to big business. That fightback is the essence of our struggle and our only hope to save ourselves.

Our summer issue announces the winner of our Working People's Poetry Contest. This was a particularly tough decision with many good entries. The winning poem, "Italian Laborer # 65533" by Frank Falcone speaks to the dehumanization and perceived disposability of working people and especially of immigrants by those who profit from our labor. It speaks as well to the dangers of work and the fragility of life. As winner, Frank Falcone receives the $100.00 prize as well as a year's subscription to our journal. Hopefully we'll see more of his work. Other poems entered appear in these pages as well. We are thankful for every entry and hope to see more in the coming year. Given the rising rejection and anger at the corrupt crushing system of greed we are witnessing -- the solidarity, hope and vision presented in this and other issues of our journal give power to the struggle. Consider sharing this issue with co-workers and friends or buying copies to pass around. In this way we can expand the reach of these vital voices enriching the influence and direction of our struggle.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Big Job

This is a holy tome every poet should read. Most if not all of the poetry in this great book have been published in the Blue Collar Review. The Big Job is published by and available from, Red Dragonfly Press. These are poems of militancy and humor interwoven by a master. Below is a review by poet Chris Butters.


147 years since Marx’s Communist Manifesto, 26 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, four years after Occupy Wall Street, Robert Edwards publishes a retrospective of his political poems.The title is The Big Job: Political Poems 1979-2003. Part retrospective, part invocation, part manifesto, at a time when the American poetry establishment and much of American poetry is governed by the strictures of an insular post- modernism, Edwards calls for a “Big Job”.

Come one, come all, you laboring tribe
and get your seven heel boots on,
the seven-leaguers. Lets go,
carpenters and data poets, dreamhackers
and cement finishers! Join the crew,
you wind-welders and stormy roughnecks laughing
open mouthed over roofs of the world!
Come on and get your feet muddy with common cause.
Let’s drink the light profane
from a jug we pass mouth to mouth like a kiss.

This is the Big Job,
the high bridge to the future, never finished.
See the cities of the Americas,
of Africa and Asia of Europe and Down Under, mate –
my people built it all, every working color of us,
our labor, our genius, our patience with the stone.

The seven wonders of the world are all in a day’s work to us.
Babel was an outhouse, Notre Dame a closet,
the skyscrapers are toothpicks and the pyramids
bricks in a fireplace where we warm our feet,
compared to what we raise and span.

No ordinary construction project, this is a big job with work for everyone, hard work, but honest work, work not only to build bridges and schools,but the very foundations of a new society And it is big for another reason – it is governed by a big idea: that working people can take destiny into their own hands and shape the new society in their own interests, and not the capitalists.
Women and men, we need your steel.
Your feet are the foundations ,your arms the girders,
your talents the rivets and mortar. Bring everything you have,
we need it all because
it is ourselves we make –

Edwards poems express the blood truths of the class struggle. But at the same time the journey to get to any punchline (if there is one) is never straightforward. Rather it is like reality itself, frequently marked by surprising images, twists and rhythms of a North American language, surrealist juxtapositions, and the dance and interplay of contending forces.

This is a poetry deriving its power from an interdependence with the workers movement and simultaneously and continually drawing on a power independently from it i.e. the fountain of the imagination. This is a poetry that resonates powerfully as poems, as well as being contributions to the political struggle.

If The Big Job is based on the premise that workers have the power and skill and intelligence to rule society, it is also based on the premise that workers have the power and skill to create their own working class culture. Such a culture includes use of the most advanced artistic techniques developed under capitalism, but speaks by, for and on behalf of working people, reflecting our own experiences and struggles.

The poem “Inauguration Day, January 2001” (regarding the 2000 U.S. presidential election) concludes with the line, “the coup was successful” (the “coup” being the ascension to power of George Bush through a coordinated campaign of criminal vote tampering by the Republican Party, collusion by the big business media and a rubber stamp by the Supreme Court). What could easily have been another bulletin that the emperor has no clothes, instead accumulates power through the juxtaposition of surreal images leading up to a conclusion with the force of revelation.

The oceans did not boil.
Earth did not roll a grown around the sun.

A hundred dollar bill lit a cigar with a human being.
The dead did not rise to march on Washington.

Without one rain of toads,
without one plague of boils,
George W. Bush, III, proud member
of the wrecking class and the new CEO
of America, Inc., in a hostile takeover,
stepped to the podium and placed
the melting icecap of his hand upon
some dead paperweight box of words.
The spigot of his mouth opened
and a geyser of crude flowed
over the green earth.

The sky did not darken at noon.
The moon did not turn to blood.

The coup was successful.

In the poem “Inquest”, a poem that concludes with a rhetorical question is preceded by a tableau of images that take on the power of a Diego Rivera mural.

Our statesmen, those politicians
fat with contempt for the People,
and holding a nuclear pistol pointed
at the world’s hostage head –
why do they keep digging foxholes
on Wall Street?

Can’t they see the angels descend
from dusty heavens, helpless
to take the injured workman’s place?
Can’t they see the braiding together
of earth and sky on the rainy horizon?

Why are they trying to dam up the future
before the dawn? And why
are they whispering
to one another in a language of blood?

Isn’t it fantastic
they don’t know that the equation in the leaf
is not the end of mystery?
Are their feet dead, or are they just plain stupid
because they can’t understand that the dance
of millions together
is the terror of the gods?

In the space of four stanzas, the poem moves swiftly from political statement to lyricism, from the humorous to the serious, from an image of descending angels and gods to an earthly language of blood , all anchored by the voice of one worker speaking to another.

Sometimes the “point” of Edwards poems is the river of images, as in the haunting poem of homelessness, “River Of The Dispossessed”. “American Dark”, on the other hand is part love poem, part political missive, and an almost perfect fusion of the personal and political.

And who could believe that writing based on the working class could be so exuberant and so much –well, FUN -- interspersed with such partisanship? Here is a stanza from “Dear America”.

Ach, mein friendly Totenkamph Papa,
how about if I give you an empty glass and promise
to fill it next fiscal year?
No, thanks, you say? You have to be going?
You have to make sure
that the production of silence is maintained
in the factories of the dead?
Wait, Dad of Eagles, don’t go!
We have so much to talk about.
When is America going to be the Motherland too?
And in the basement of the Smithsonian
are you holding the real Uncle Sam?

Dear America, now is the time to bristle with Spring
and green thunders!
What we ignore will surface like a submarine
in our coffee—

Dear America, America mine,
…. you’re already out the door with your fingers
in your ears….

This voice – marked by rollicking word play and a deadly seriousness lying just beneath the surface – will be repeated in other poems in The Big Job. The carnivalesque quality of Edward’s exuberant language may strike some as in contradiction to the book’s flip side of plain speaking and sober truths. But when one remembers the historic role of carnival in overturning society’s established class order through festival and theater (even if just for the day), Edwards’ strategy becomes clear.

This book, which collects poems from 1970- 2003, is like a compendium of political struggles in the U.S. during those years. There are poems here written in solidarity with the Central American and South African revolutionary movements. (Even here, the headlights of the South African miners are “like a third eye that opens far underground /in the infernal midnight galleries of exploitation”.)

There are poems like “Fourth of July”. In the summer of his class struggle, the young poet experiences a solidarity with other workers, and the world view of Marxism. We will need these poems, given the struggles to come.

Edwards is particularly good at lambasting the extreme right wing figures of the Republican party of these years, and the big business forces who stand behind them. The poem “When Newt Gingrich Speaks” exposes the stench of fascism lying just underneath the glittering rhetoric of Gingrich and Helms (and our present day Trump). Poems like “Progress, Holidays, And The Official Story” poignantly remind us that racism is alive and well in the supposed U.S. “post-racial” society, and the fight against it is an integral part of the struggle of our “Big Job”.

The destruction of the Soviet Union throws a big shadow in the course of this compendium, as well it should. Whatever one’s view of the Soviet Union, the loss of a counterweight to imperialism clearly threw the socialist movement on the defensive --and the working class in retreat under an emboldened imperialism in its trumpeted “new world order”.

At a time when the capitalist class hailed the destruction of the Soviet Union as evidence of “the death of communism”, Roberts defiantly reaffirms his Marxist commitment (“The Death Of Communism”). At the same time, reflecting the soul searching shared by many of us on the Left at the time, Edwards asks us, “Shouldn’t there be an inquest?/ And isn’t it time to demand answers from our hands,/ to interrogate our tools?).

He then asks,
“Yes, there are better shopping opportunities now,
and all the world’s currencies flow
into one sea of trade whose bottom line is salt
to the thirsty, riptide to the unemployed,
or a painter’s light – a green steel Vermeer
tha never fed a child. Yes black money
continues to frag the future,and the same oppressions
gather their old names to new men.
This is the perfection we need not surpass?
Accommodation is the wisdom we have awakened to?
An this is why our hands framed the tools
that troubled the thunder of gods outgrown?”

And if imperialism has been temporarily strengthened, it hasn’t changed its spots. In another poem Edwards uses his knowledge of Greek mythology to give it a different name: Erysichthon.

Because he would devour the world and be Death,
Erysichthon was cursed by Demeter with insatiable hunger
. Driven insane by appetite, he sold his daughter for food,
dragging all he could to his mouth,
until he broke his teeth on rocks,
until he tore the meat from his own bones
and dying drank his own blood down.

Like you, America. Like you.

But it is the poems about America , where I think Edwards poems especially sing. The poems in The Big Job are filled with American heroes: Pete Seeger, Gus Hall, Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, Geronimo Pratt, Martin Luther King, Ma Joad and Grandma Millie. (And a new one – Uberman !). I also think it is no accident that it is in these hard-won poems his language, voice and meaning come together and most successfully fuse.

In Pete Seeger, Edwards uses a music festival as occasion to portray the hope and aspirations of American working people.
The floodplain is claimed in one voice by the People,
if only for tonight. A summer sound of joy
goes down to the dark currents of Big Muddy singing,
and we feel what is possible:
the good American heart of its men and women,
open to the world, all the labor in the fields of justice
bearing beautiful fruit at last,
all highways open, and the rivers running untainted
into the future, mixing the black earth of the Heartland
with the cold salts of the sea….

“Highways” is another example where Edwards fuses his lyricism, use of imagery and commitment into a new whole. He sees the “rusted steel towns”, but also identifies in the course of the poem a “rainbow tribe” and a promise.
and when I awoke I held a dream in my arms
tight so tight believing
all of us or none, believing that America will rise
into itself, climbing its prayers
into the promise of the morning. Yes
I have seen the sleeping face of that dream
in your restless rainbow tribe
as they struggled in their labor and against
the hatred or indifference of the rich
and their own scabs and traitors.

wherever I awoke, I held a dream in my arms,
rocking it in the cradle of my ribs ---
a dream that could not wake up.

Elsewhere, poems indicate that this dream can only be actualized through militant struggle against the capitalist class – and against the false patriotism and jingoism of “Yesterday’s War”, and “The Republican Café”.

At a time where poetry is dominated by a “post modernist” aesthetic of essentially “art for art’s sake”, Edwards has created a significant body of work that bases itself on the working class, and which also possesses a rare power and resonance.

I hope this book enables Bob to reach the broader audience he deserves. To those who ask where are the new Pete Seegers, I say: read this book. To those who say, where are the political poets who speak for us, I say: read this book. I hope this book will get into the hands of those who need to read it most. I hope it will be read and, what is more, USED.

At a time when the capitalist crisis is deepening, this book is a call for workers to imagine. It is a call for workers to act. At a time marked by the biggest looting of the wealth of the working class by the capitalist class in centuries, it is especially a call to a new generation to pick up the torch and carry the struggle for the Big Job forward. In Edwards’ poems there is also a special emphasis on the role of poets in this daunting but important work.

This is a long road and heavy lifting awaits. But if this means continued struggle by the working class “rainbow tribe”, there is also joy and comradeship -- and poetry and beauty and music -- along the way.

“Women and men, we need your steel.
Your feet are the foundations, your arms the girders,
your talents the rivets and mortar.
Bring everything you have, we need it all because

it is ourselves we make –
the earthquake-proof human highway,
carrying our children and their imaginations
to skies beyond our last nail.

The weather and the official Press
are always against us -- I like the odds!

And I don’t know about the dead,
but we’’ll make enough noise to wake the living!