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Poetry on Poverty

Poets render the hardships and beauty of poor and working class life into a variety of powerful styles.

 
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Beatty, Jan
Boneshaker
PS3552.E179 B66 2002x
Beatty's fearless poetry takes the reader to the fierce career waitress, to the disenchanted father telling his daughter "Work is work," to the dive bars, to the orphaned girl, and most importantly, to the body, in Pittsburgh "under the old/railroad bridge of our ancestors/ immigrant steelworkers/slaves of Carnegie."
 
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Blues Poems
edited by Kevin Young
PS595.B6 B58 2003
This anthology of blues about hard luck, hard love and hard work puts Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, and Blind Willie Johnson alongside Langston Hughes, W.H. Auden, Nikki Giovanni, Allen Ginsberg, and many others.
 
Brooks, Gwendolyn
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks
PS3503.R7244 A6 2005
Brooks writes rhythmic, potent portraits of primarily black characters and the troubles and triumphs they face, including poverty, in poems like "An Old Black Woman, Homeless, and Indistinct," "Steam Song," and "The Lovers of the Poor."
 
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Bukowski, Charles
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire
PS3552.U4 W48 1999
Alcohol, gambling, fighting, prostitutes, cheap apartments and lousy jobs rendered into blunt, exquisite poetry from a crass unlikable speaker.
 
Daniels, Jim
Punching Out
PS3554.A5635 P86 1990
A Pittsburgh poet known for tough, realistic verse describing working class people's lives released his second collection about an auto factory's working conditions.
 
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Gibb, Robert
The Burning World: Poems
PS3557.I139 B87 2004
This moving collection recalls Homestead's "blast furnaces and open hearths/ glowering through clouds of smoke," and details of the steelworkers' and the poet's lives in vivid, compelling poems.
 
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Kingsolver, Barbara
Another America = Otra America
PS3561.I496 A87 1998
The renowned author of such novels as Pigs in Heaven and The Poisonwood Bible writes about border-crossing, illegal immigrant workers and social injustice in this passionate political collection of poems also translated into Spanish by Rebecca Cartes.
 
Levine, Philip
What Work Is: Poems
PS3562.E9 W47 1991
Levine focuses his pensive, restrained verse on the workers of the US in their many forms with powerful imagery like, "In a few minutes he will hold/ his timecard above a clock,/ and he can drop it in/ and hear the moment crunching down."
 
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Sandburg, Carl
Poems for the People
PS3537.A618 A6 1999
The collection consists largely of portraits of everyday laborers in previously unpublished poems from the poet who with "Chicago," immortalized the working class of the eponymous city.
 
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Winters, Anne
The Displaced of Capital
PS3573.I539 D57 2004
With a focus that ranges from globalization to the farmer who "has left behind his ploughed-under village for an illegal/ partitioned attic in the outer boroughs" in a single stanza, Winters gathers the diversity of images and characters of New York City into poems that observe the daily faces of members of its homeless population.
 

Updated:1/6/2010