Friday, April 12, 2019

Winter 2018-19 Editorial

Since our last issue, our borders have become increasingly militarized with refugee and child prisons spreading. Climate disasters continue and our economy trembles, yet we stubbornly struggle on. As economic insecurity grows, along with the wealth of the richest, and chaotic confusion grips our corporate media, we continue to hear the usual demonizations and justifications for war. Yet truthful words reverberate. They come from the streets. They come from the shop floor. They come from newly-elected progressive congressional representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. They come from class-conscious progressives and poets who see beyond media narratives, partisan rhetoric, and justifications for aggression.

Winter is hard, especially for those of us struggling just to keep warm. Wages remain stagnant as prices continue to rise, from the cost of electricity to food, rents, insurance and medical care. Again, the truth becomes evident. The rule of money at its cruelest and least regulated takes its wrath out on working people, the old and the most vulnerable. As we write this, Trump continues to stack the courts with fascist ideologues and corporate puppets. He continues to place crooks and polluters in cabinet positions to destroy public protections. As poet Gil Scott-Heron once intoned, it's winter in America.

The poets in this collection know it. They understand that beyond scape-goating and divisive rhetoric, the rule of money in its own interest and at our expense, is the root that connects all the other issues that affect us. Described in poems like "The Song of the Boiler Maker" by Phillip Baldwin, "Toiling Away at the Mill" by Joseph S. Pete and poems by Sharon Mitchell and Fred Voss are the pride we take in our labor and the necessity of the work we do, as well as the hellish reality of the workplace and the toll it takes on our bodies.

Poems by Darell Petska, Mary Franke, E.F. Schraeder, Warsan Shire and Sara M. Lewis speak from experience of the struggle to survive these terrible times as immigrant refugees and of refugees of capitalism.

The poem, "Plowing On" speaks to our own commitment to continue publishing this journal against the odds. We had to replace the old, dependable printer we have been cajoling along for 15 years because supplies were getting too difficult to find. We could only afford buy a new laser printer because of donations made by you, our readers. The new printer set us back a few hundred dollars and we still have expenses to meet. This issue comes during our fund-drive period. Know that every cent donated goes to keep these powerful and artfully composed truths flowing out to where others can read and identify with them. Tax-deductible donations can be made on our website or to Partisan Press. P.O. Box 11417 Norfolk, VA 23517. On a related note, the deadline for our annual Working People's Poetry Competition is drawing near. Send us your experiences, your truths. The winning poet will win $100.00, a 1 year subscription, and have their poem posted on our website for a year.

As the circus of another election year arrives and the struggle against the arrogant, ecocidal rule of money intensifies, there has never been a more important time for truth and the consciousness raising culture of solidarity. We are more than grateful for your ongoing support of this effort. Together we can move forward.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Lyle Daggett -- Presenté

Lyle Daggett, a strong proletarian poet published in our journal and elsewhere died last December. Not only did Lyle write strong, lyrical political poetry, he left a compendium, a veritable library and education on Marxist political poetry via his blog,A Burning Patience. The following is an obit by fellow poet and long time comrade Robert Edwards,

It was in 1978 that I first met Lyle Daggett, and that came about through the poet, Jim Dochniak, when I first moved to Minneapolis from Fargo, North Dakota. Jim had a magazine called Sez which only lasted two issues but had wonderful political poetry in it, and that's when I first read Lyle. There was never any question to me, even then, that Lyle was a singular talent, unlike anybody else in the Upper Midwest, an area full of singular and unique talents. In my opinion, Lyle was one of the most important political poets this country has had in recent times. Although there are an infinite variety of political poems, it should be noted that Lyle often wrote revolutionary poems as opposed to bourgeois protest poems. There are many reasons to read him and, of course, Lyle wrote many other kinds of poems than political ones. Having said that, political concerns were always at the forefront for him, and I think in many ways those were the poems he was most proud of. In a magazine I was later to found, Pemmican, which was highly influenced by Sez, I would publish Lyle for almost twenty years, including his 9 page poem, "communism is a round sun shining." He was a lifelong Union man, and defiant about it. In the early 1980s, Lyle and I were in a Cultural Club, with the publisher, John Crawford of West End. The Cultural Club was an experiment by the Minneapolis Communist Party, of which Lyle and I were both members in those days. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was working with a couple of coffeehouse/cafes in Minneapolis/St. Paul to host poetry readings and, since I often got to influence the line up, I always offered a spot to Lyle. As is often the case with dedicated and meticulous poets, Lyle wasn't a performer or even the strongest reader, but his work towered above nearly anything else on any given night. These were the kinds of poems you would pull your chair closer to hear. I think in Lyle's work you hear a voice that is fully formed by the idea that political poetry needs to be, first and foremost, good poetry and not simply a ham-handed, tone deaf vehicle for political concepts. In later years, Lyle found a home for his work with Minnesota publisher, Red Dragonfly Press, and I encourage anyone who wants to read Lyle's books to start there. Red Dragonfly will also be publishing in the near future Lyle's last submitted manuscript, Road Song and Annunciation. His sudden and shocking death on Christmas Day, 2018, has left a gnawing absence. I will remember him not only as a greatly talented poet but also as a fierce Lefty whose passion for broad social change never lessened over the decades. I hope there will be many, many more poets who have that same passion because clearly America needs them. But there will never be another like Lyle Daggett.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Fall Issue Editorial

Our fall issue comes out at a dangerous moment with an incompetent, megalomaniacal president feeling cornered by mounting possibilities of prosecution and dwindling support. As we go to publication, the government is in a state of shutdown with threats of the declaration of a national "state of emergency" which could, thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act expanded by two presidents, have dire consequences.

This Fall saw the mid-term election of a significant number of progressive social democrats to Congress. The resistance they face from old-guard corporate Democrats is as much an obstacle as that of still powerful Republicans, but the future and the will of the majority is on their side.

Poems in this issue speak with anger at the blatant misogyny of this administration. The poems, "Deconstruction" and "Simple Addition" rail against the nomination and seating of an arrogant frat-boy rapist on the Supreme Court, and to the ugly anti-woman attitudes represented by Trump, Pence and Republicans. The diversity of those elected in the mid-terms to state governments and to Congress, and the rise of outspoken women herald an important change. This may well be a turning point for the rise of women to power. As important as that is, it needs to be part of a progressive wave against the rule of money which exploits, impoverishes and oppresses us all.

Many of the poems in this collection come out of increasingly hard times. Especially hard-hit are the elderly poor, minorities, women and immigrants. Also addressed in the poems, "On the Radio," "Still Preying" and "Mudflaps & Backward Ballcaps" is the poisoning of minds by the right-wing disinformation machine. In many places, too many of our co-workers have been turned against their own interests by the destructive tribalization of politics, the hate-filled scape-goating and the anti-labor nonsense pushed by talk radio, FOX and allied evangelic preachers.

Also in this issue, among poems trying to make sense of what has become of our country, are poems focused on labor struggles and on our commitment to go beyond resistance in fighting for a more just and livable world. That is what this journal is about. What has made the corporate disinformation machine so powerful goes back in essential ways to its primary founder -- Roger Ailes. He understood the power of culture in shaping our identity, our perceptions and our loyalties. He misused his talents and we are living with the tragedy of his success. We too understand the power of culture, but unlike Ailes, we are not promoters of the corporate agenda and do not have the backing of the billionaire ruling class. All we have is each other.

This issue marks our annual fund raising season. We don't like to add to the burden of begging, but without the financial support of our readers, we cannot continue. Good writing and reader support are what has kept us in print for much of the last two decades. You will find a slip of paper asking for donations in this issue and the next. You can also donate via our website. We hope you will continue to support this project.

Beyond donations, we also need to expand our outreach. Consider buying a prescription for co-workers you think could benefit. This can be done anonymously. You can pass around back issues or leave them where others can find them. I like to leave them in laundromats where a captive audience of working folk will see them. As blowback to the insanity of the Trump debacle and the growing climate disaster fertilize progressive anger, this could be our time.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Gift that Keeps Giving

Black Friday, Manic Monday, Giving Tuesday, Digital Wednesday, broke and remorseful Friday . . . I know most of us are overwhelmed with the materialist frenzy of shopping spending and struggling. We at Partisan Press do not want to play that game, which is why our Fund Drive usually starts in January.

That said, we are scraping by with difficulty. One way you can help while spreading much needed class consciousness is to consider the gift that keeps giving year 'round -- a gift subscription to the Blue Collar Review. I think we all know someone who could benefit from a prescription to our journal of strong progressive, class conscious literature! You can do this online or by check. If you let us know it is gift, we will insert a small certificate indicating so and from whom -- or not -- the choice is yours.

Another alternative is to choose a gift from among the many strong collections of poetry we publish. These are the gifts that inspire, that can change lives and that move our culture forward against the current of anti-worker corporate, fascist culture.

We appreciate your support and wish all a happy and healthy holiday season with as little forced overtime as possible

Friday, November 02, 2018


Editing and publishing a poetry journal is a complex and difficult task rife with pitfalls. We try hard to do our best but sometimes things fall through the cracks -- especially loose sheets of paper. In the recent issue, the poem "Leaders" on page 53 of the journal, a couple of ending stanzas disappeared. Likely, a second sheet of paper was detached and lost. I usually staple multi-page poems together to prevent this unfortunate occurrence. Below is the poem in its entirety:

I asked a Burmese why women, after centuries of following their men, now walk ahead. He said there were many unexploded land mines since the war.
            – Robert Mueller

Often when Kelly and I are walking somewhere
I wind up many steps ahead of her and she complains,
asks me to slow down, which, given we are in America,

is not a foolish request, as it could be in Myanmar,
where I might be prone to slow down on my own,
though I’d hate to think I’d make her walk ahead.

She brings up native Americans sometimes,
telling a story about how when she’d fall behind
her twin brother as they were walking, he’d ask her

if she was a squaw. If men usually walk ahead
of women in native cultures, I’d suspect it’s
to protect the women, to be the first to face

danger, though with mountain lions that attack
from behind, that would put women at greater risk.
Given what Mueller is doing these days, I’m

drawn to wondering what the male in the White House
would do if he were out walking in dangerous
territory with a woman—besides grope her, that is.

Somehow I can’t imagine him wanting to be the first
to confront danger, although I’ve no doubt he would
dispute this, brag about how brave he is, prefacing it

with “Believe me,” as in, “Believe me, I’d be tremendous
in a situation like that. Brave? You talk about brave. I’d
be amazing, huge. I’d be tough, smart. You talk about smart.

Believe me. I’d be smart.” I suspect his wife and ex-wives
all know how he’d be, which is why they’ve never
gone to Myanmar with him. Of course, heel spurs

might be given as a reason why he’d fall behind
on a walk there. But enough about the male
in the White House who doesn’t have to worry

about land mines on the golf course. It’s what Mueller
is doing that should be of greater concern, anyway.
I wonder how many steps ahead he is by now.

         -- Matthew J. Spireng

Monday, October 01, 2018

Summer Issue Editorial

On our warming Earth, summer is the Terrible Season, the sweltering inferno of it culminating in the devastation of torrential storms and hurricanes. This summer has witnessed firestorms in the west and catastrophic deluges and flooding on the Gulf and East Coasts as well as in the Midwest. Even as the climate disaster unfolds, our corporate leadership, under the misguidance of a deranged denialist who cannot see beyond money, continues to erase even inadequate fossil-fuel regulations like the burning off of methane released via fracking. A death warrant for life on earth signed in our blood.

The decline of our biosphere is matched with a decline in civic life, paralized by cultivated partisan division. The rise of fascism here and elsewhere is a desperate and predictable response to the growth of resistance to the corrupt and destructive rule of money. The poems in this collection speak from this reality, and not just in this country. We also have working class poems of resistance from China, where our journal has struck a nerve. Capital is global and our working class must connect globally to overcome it, emancipating ourselves from its ecocidal tyranny.

Our Summer issue always focuses on the inseparable issues of war and climate. The U.S. economy is based on the production and sale of weapons and on perpetual warfare. The casualties continue to mount from the many slaughtered in Syria, Yemen, Israel, Myanmar and African nations to our own school children, minorities and the refugees our policies have created. Poems in this issue speak to the ghastly cost of war and a militarized culture.

This issue proudly presents the winner of our annual Working People's Poetry Contest. This year's winning poem, "The Transients" by Gregg Shotwell fleshes out the personal cost of war and of the connected economic realities of poverty and of people discarded. As the contest winner, Gregg Shotwell won the $100.00 prize, and one year subscription. His poem will remain on our website for one year. "The Transients" is a great example of progressive working class poetry and consciousness. We hope it inspires and we hope to see more entries to our contest over the coming year.

Though this collection has a bleak outlook reflective of the times, it should also be seen as hopeful. As the climate crisis grows exponentially, so too does public awareness and alarm. This is true of the disaster of Trump as well. In his corrupt, gangster arrogance, he continues to be an inadvertent beacon exposing the ugly truth not only of himself but of the filthy corrupt system of corporate influence that produced him. People are finally waking up. "Trump Derangement Syndrome" has been cynically mentioned in the media, including the New York Times, but in truth, it only applies when the focus of resistance stops with him. A growing movement of social democrats goes further in addressing the root problem -- the rule of money. Unless we separate money from power, little but the faces will change.

Real change must be rooted in the growth of social consciousness. This requires class awareness and a strong working class culture. Promoting that is our mission. We are thankful to all who contribute poetry, stories, reviews and/or financial support. You can help by passing this issue and back issues around so our work is seen by more of us and our progressive working class perspective can take root and grow..

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Spring Editorial

As the chill of winter gives way to the warming storms of spring, the daily news becomes a wrenching gut-punch replete with the increasing raids on immigrant refugees, the tearing of children from parents and the building of concentration camps. The blatant criminality and corruption of Trump's filthy gang of grifters is only surpassed by their outrageous arrogance and the libelous ugliness of their hate-filled lies.

What is missed by many in our largely uninformed amnesiac empire is that the migrants -- largely indigenous Americans -- are refugees of our own heinous support, arming and backing of brutal death-squad regimes, military coups, and forced austerities; the maquiladora reality of enforced destitution.

The horrific poverty and brutal oppression we have forced on poor countries around the world for the benefit of corporations is now increasingly being applied in our own poor and urban communities as the vultures of capitalism come home to roost.

The attacks on refugees are being called a "Zero Tolerance" policy. As the poems in this collection illustrate, we too have zero tolerance. We cannot and will not tolerate systemic bigotry, the brutal theft of our rights and resources, the nightmare theft of children, the erasure of public protections, the poisoning of our communities and the theft of a livable future.

The poets in this collection describe the moral and structural entropy that grips our country. They write of lives wasted, in stupid, too often degrading and health-killing jobs. Of bosses trying to cheat us. Of elusive and failing health care. The hard reality of environmental destruction, alienation and homelessness.

These poems speak of the insanity of guns, misplaced anger and rampant violence by police and by the deranged which increasingly plague our daily existence. They speak of the diseased violence of Empire we export globally. Most important is that the poems -- that these working class poets write -- reflect a knowledge of history, the class consciousness of community and a vision of angry hope. Not the delusional hope that cripples, but the militant love that demands sanity, justice and a better world.

Sometimes we have to wonder what difference writing a poem makes amid the ongoing monstrosity. We have to believe that while words are insufficient, the example of sanity, solidarity and of a better vision passed along from mouth to ear, from hand to hand and by our actions, touches souls, awakening the better selves buried beneath the toxic garbage of bourgeois commercial militarized culture. That it can undermine the fascist ecocidal juggernaut. We believe in the transformative power of culture; that working class culture with its vision of the common good, the solidarity of love that excludes no one, which rejects the egotism of abusive exploitation, can undermine this rotten system by showing a way forward and creating a future we can live in.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Winter Editorial

As this issue comes together, we feel a sickening sense of despair with insane neocons threatening invasions and possible nuclear war. We are under siege by entrenched and power-drunk Wall Street financiers threatening massive cuts to any program that offers us protection, from the predation of profiteers to the social safety net and even our hard-earned social security.

The same neoliberal economic policies which, applied globally, result in debt-colonialism imposed on poorer countries with dire results from the cruelties of forced economic austerity to harsh and abusive military dictatorships, are being applied to us as well. We are slaves to mortgages, rents, utilities, bosses and the debt we accrue just to survive – if we are lucky. The most vulnerable of us wind up in jail or on the streets.

This collection emerges from that harsh reality. Some of these poems are written by poets presently trying to survive within our inhumane prisons. Some of these poems come from people struggling to eat and pay the rent, trapped in dehumanizing jobs. Many of us do not have insurance, or if we do, can't afford to use it because of exorbitant copays and drug prices.

The violence that we have perpetrated on the rest of the world has come home. Teachers and students are being murdered and oppressed minorities continue to be slaughtered by police with impunity.

Immigrants are facing the terror of roundups, persecution, and shameful human rights abuses in a continuation of past racist pogroms leading to genocides. The press chooses to remain silent but poets here are speaking out -- and speak out we must.

Together, we must take responsibility by doing everything in our power to awaken others to the dangers of racist oppression, hyper-nationalism, and war -- the mass-murder of working people to further enrich the same folks that oppress all of us. The rule of money threatens our own survival as much as it does people living in Iran, Korea, Central America, Africa, or anywhere else.

The poets in this issue speak out against the inseparable monstrosities of economic injustice, bigotry, war, and their continuing consequences. Part of our responsibility is getting others to read what we have written. Extra issues and back issues are available and inexpensive. Passing them around helps support the journal while building the consciousness needed for real progress.

It has been inspiring to see the recent victory of teachers in West Virginia and the uprising of a new generation of activists who are impressive in their knowledge and in their commitment. In this time of empowered thievery and fascist insanity, these young people give us hope for a future. Let us work with them to build a resurgence of social sanity and progressive advancement toward a just and livable world.

Our own future as a rare and vital venue for progressive working class literature is also on the line. This is our fundraising season. We are grateful for the support we have already received. Our ability to meet expenses and to continue to publish through the year depends on your support. We thank you.

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.