Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday's poem: Fred Voss: Only Poets with Clean Hands Win Prizes

"there's more literature/under their dirty fingernails/than in all the disser­tations/on earth".
Fred Voss from "Herman Melville Works on Machine #11"


The homeless woman pushes her little boy and girl in a shopping cart
down an alley to the trash cans
where she desperately looks for scraps of food
as the poet
writes about whether or not an ashtray on his coffee table
really exists
the man works 50 then 60 then 70 hours a week in a factory
so he can live in a tiny cheap room with another man
instead of in a car
and the poet
leans back pleased with her image
of a red teacup
sailing through a wall
the poets
are polishing lines about the shadows inside ivory bowls
and what time really means
as old people
must choose between their medicine and eating
people in agony with no health insurance spend nights sitting in chairs
waiting in crowded emergency rooms
go to prison for the rest of their lives for stealing
a sandwich
the poet
is writing about looking in a mirror
as a wave curls
over his shoulder and he knows it is all
an illusion
while men are thrown out onto the street
where they will pick up bottles
or needles that will ruin their lives because
there are no jobs
as the poets
work to polish words that prove the ticks of a clock
aren’t real.

Fred Voss's poetry is here.
Articles and interviews with Fred Voss  are here, here and here.
A You Tube clip of Voss reading some of his poems is here.
Fred Voss is a respected and revered Southern Californian poet.  He has had three collections of poetry published,  as well as novels, and his poetry appears regularly in magazines such as Poetry Review (London), Ambit (London), Rising (London), The Shop (Ireland), Atlanta Review (US) and Pearl (US).
After receiving a B.A. from University of California in 1974, Voss started, but dropped out of a PhD in English literature. He has worked in factories for over 35 years. He has been a steel rule die maker in a gasket factory, a steel cutter at a steel mill blast furnace, a machinist in a steel mill machine shop and a machinist in aerospace and aircraft plants.
Voss writes about the daily lives and struggles of people living precarious lives in America. He writes of factory life, the politics of the factory floor, working class life and the exploitation of manual labourers. Many of his poems draw from and are inspired by his experience working in factories and machine shops.

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