Social Poetics

Social Poetics

by Mark Nowak


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Social Poetics documents the imaginative militancy and emergent solidarities of a new, insurgent working class poetry community rising up across the globe. Part autobiography, part literary criticism, part Marxist theory, Social Poetics presents a people’s history of the poetry workshop from the founding director of the Worker Writers School. Nowak illustrates not just what poetry means, but what it does to and for people outside traditional literary spaces, from taxi drivers to street vendors, and other workers of the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Entropy, March 2020 Most Anticipated Small Press Releases

“[A]n invaluable archive of an otherwise little-documented field.” —Poetry Foundation

“If a creative writing text ever raised a call to the barricades, it’s this one. . . . The work deserves a place on the shelf of any thinking teacher in the field. Anyone can use a breath of fresh air, a bracing reminder of art’s power to change the world.” —Brooklyn Rail

“Nowak’s work follows in the tradition of Langston Hughes. . . . Social Poetics records an enduring tradition of people chronicling their conditions and discovering their own language as a resource for sharing their experiences and organizing. Nowak’s focus on workshops, from Attica to the Worker Justice Center of New York, powerfully re-envisions what literary communities might look like, and how they can expand the range of poetic expression, enliven social movements and foster solidarity across oceans.” —In These Times

“[B]oth an attempt to recuperate a forgotten literary canon (literature made for and inside working-class struggle) and an effort to summon forth new structures of organization, expression, and literary culture. . . . These incredible displays of vision, heart, and solidarity demonstrate that poetry, so often associated with the snooty, the stuffy, and the sequestered, can absolutely resonate with working-class people—so long as issues of concern to working-class people hold relevance to the world of poetry.” —Poetry Northwest

Social Poetics focuses on the history of poetry workshops from the perspective of working-class people who attempted to spark social change despite being largely overlooked by society.” —Chronogram

“[A]n exciting addition to poetry’s grail quest for a first-person plural, a collective enunciation. Nowak’s writing is attuned to the needs of today in what feels like a new horizon taking shape, part of a larger appreciation for the poetics of relationality and experience. . . . Provides powerful witness to the verb of poetry—poetry as a social act, whereby workers reclaim autonomy over their creations.” —Full Stop

“Whether unpacking Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘unity of the emerging idea,’ demonstrating the practical application of alliteration, or recalling his daughter teaching youth prison poets origami, Mark Nowak testifies to the urgency and intimacy of poetry in our prisons, union halls, and workers’ centers. Social Poetics tracks what happens when people gather around poems: conjunctions, dialogues, imaginative militancy, solidarities. This supple, comprehensive book is a study in the poetics of bearing witness, bearing tools, and bearing possibilities.” —Terrance Hayes

Social Poetics materializes imaginative militancy. With a litany of the social as pervasive and intimate, and political memories of life-and-death struggles for justice, Nowak crafts a transformative workshop for the collective. This is an important record of how the people’s power, poetry, and history maintain us and the beauty of our world(s).” —Joy James

Praise for Mark Nowak

“[Nowak is willing] to submerge his own voice beneath these other accounts, privileging other voices—those of survivors, widows, journalists—above his own. He is a legislator whose job is allowing others to be heard.” —Leslie Jamison, New York Times, “By the Book”

“The aim of making poetry to make change, to make history, is what makes Nowak’s work most radical and most daring, moving into the realm where knowing is a kind of collective being and doing.” —Philip Metres, Kenyon Review

“Mark Nowak is restoring the perspective of working class Americans to contemporary American poetry.” —The Buffalo News

“The several long poems that make up this book build into each other with devastating force and understatement, breaking poetic boundaries, regenerating the rich tradition of working-class literature.” —Adrienne Rich

Coal Mountain Elementary is an imaginative and shocking reminder of what it means, in the most human and poignant terms, to be a miner, whether in this country or in China, or for that matter anywhere in the industrial world. It is also a tribute to miners and working people everywhere. It manages, in photos and in words, to portray an entire culture. And it is a stunning educational tool.” —Howard Zinn

“Mark Nowak encounters the whispers of creation and cultural remembrance in his eminent, visionary poetry. Revenants is an original return to a splendid ethos of ancestral word patterns, and the images bear the solemn pleasures of time, place, and singular landscapes.” —Gerald Vizenor

“One of the most original collections of poetry I’ve read in years. In it, the curling smoke of myth mixes with the smoke from cooking sausages, and heavy steps of history are crisscrossed by the indelible birdtracks of particular places, recorded by the poet in his fieldnotes.” —Forrest Gander

Revenants is a meta-ethnography, a palpable social and psychic cosmos made visible by fiery dislocations and upturned names. I have seen few manifestos as incandescent as this one.” —Juan Felipe Herrara

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781566895675
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 476,919
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

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