a progressive working class vision of culture
that inspires us and that moves us forward as a class.
by Al Markowitz
On Memorial Day,
for all the Veterans who marched
against the War in Iraq and were jeered.
Keep the faith!
A palpable silence of reverence where “soldier”
is synonymous with hero revered.
Where service in battle is holy and
mysterious dark foreigners feared.
We venerate our soldiers’ presence on the always far front
and with heads bowed in adoration try
to show off our symbols of public support –
as long as they shut up and die.
Our mission is the preservation, expansion,
and promotion of the literature
of our working class,
primarily poetry, which might not find a place
in profit-driven publishing channels.
We hope to create an awareness of and involvement
in working class culture as well as to promote a
progressive vision that will move our class
and our society forward toward
a more just and peaceful future.
This is a moment for fireworks
for the blare of horns
Let the first light of
a new dawn illuminate the faces
that didn’t make it here
as the long night recedes — at least a little bit.
So long to go but so far
to have come.
Let the nightmare of
Patriot acts and torture cells
of “rendition” and war be broken
let Justice roll down like
an unstoppable deluge
washing us clean of
murderers and liars,
of cynical imperialists
leaving in its wake
a new topography on which to build
the tomorrow of our dream.
Al Markowitz is a worker, an activist and a poet.
He is also the editor and publisher of the Blue Collar Review, journal of progressive working class literature and runs Partisan Press, where he labors to promote and expand the literature of our working class.
He has worked as a printer, a medic, a mental health worker, a cook, a gardener, a cabbie, a factory slave, and, as a barely employable misfit, now works a part-time gig doing editorial work.
He has been active in the struggles against apartheid, American terrorism around the world, nuclear power, and war, as well as working in support of organized labor.Credits
His work has appeared in The San Fernando Journal, Pemmican, The Hammer, The Black Water Review, Struggle, Main Street Rag, Political Affairs, Black Bear Review, Nisqually Review, and elsewhere.
— The Guerilla Poetics Project
''It's real rewarding; it's built this community of poets around the country,'' said Al Markowitz, 49, who founded Blue Collar Review in 1997.
Mr. Markowitz said that he started the magazine to counter what he saw as the elitism of most literary magazines and to serve as a progressive political voice.
The nonprofit magazine is circulated widely enough to have attracted $200 from Michael Moore, he said, as well as poems from Marge Piercy and Amiri Baraka.
Contributors, though, are more likely to be house painters who write poetry, and they are paid with copies of the magazine. One poem in the Summer 2004 issue is titled ''How to Lose a Democracy.''
''This is not necessarily about work, but life from the perspective of people who work for a living, people who have bosses and bills,'' said Mr. Markowitz, who puts the magazine together with printing equipment in his basement and says he desperately needs money to keep going.— "A Little Journal For Nearly Every Literary Voice," New York Times, Dec. 27, 2004
More: "An Interview with Al Markowitz"
New American Dream Interview
AL MARKOWITZ lives in Norfolk, Virginia.
He publishes The Blue Collar Review: Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature.
The review has an annual budget of $5,500 and a print run of 600.
Al's day job is being an "unemployed middle-aged misfit, itinerant poet and occasional bartender."
"Our mission is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture that inspires us and that moves us forward as a class."
And again tonight I will have to downshift,
trade the light of creative
ecstasy for the commercial
jaundiced fluorescent light of a
late night convenience store, and
then pretend that it is important.
Cognitive dissonance wears me down
pretending that this store is so vital
when all the time I can see that it barely
exists in some marginal commercial realm
loosely orbiting the real universe.
It is a fritzy reality, flickering like its
yellow light tubes and trying to gobble reality
like a rogue black hole.
Expedience dictates that I flirt with its event horizon
most every night doing tacky commercial things
there eight hours away from my own
private universe of thought and concept.
What sort of shit will I have to put up with tonight,
that my fine and private universe be stocked with food
and have a roof over it next week?
— Michael Conner
[Blue Collar Review]
The New American Dream Trivia Question
To win a copy of one of Palecek's books, or leftover Christmas candy, or maybe a "Deception Dollar," be the first one to correctly answer the following.
Al Markowitz would rather be ...
a. In Norfolk, Nebraska
b. President Nader's Secretary of Labor
c. Meeting Karl Rove in the alley behind Cap'n Ron's Bar & Grill
d. Considering the poetry submission of inmate George W. Bush for the Fall 2009 issue
e. Welding Dick Cheney's cell door shut
f. Obama's Secretary of Discussions On The New Minimum Wage
NAD: Al, hello, thank you for taking the time for this.
Bukowski wrote from a working class perspective, right?
I mean, struggling with a job, surviving, all that, and then writing.
Your magazine must be a god-send for many Bukowski's out there now.
Who are some of the great ones you publish — who we have probably never heard of?
The BCR and working class literature are not much like what Bukowski wrote.
What defines working class literature is a clarity that comes from the nitty-grity realism of working class life.
Most of us aren't drunks though.
Progressive working class literature goes the extra step of embodying a working class conscious — a militant class loyalty which understands that our living conditions and our fates are tied together and a class loyalty that understands our collective role in struggleing for our class interests: peace, living wages (and ultimately ownership), environmental sustainability . . .
NAD: You have survived with the magazine for a long time now.
What good is poetry?
Can you fight poverty with a poem?
Can you battle in hand to hand combat with America with a poem?
Poetry changes lives.
For some people it gets ideas and truths across in a form that is much more powerful than long footnoted tomes.
Poetry is a condensed form of expression — the highest level of linguistic communication and if it isn't comunicating, it is a waste of resources.
Revolutionary change requires a change of consciousness, and that is something poetry can address.
NAD: Would you like to choose one of these to answer, elaborate on?
We don't ask this to make fun. We ask because we really seek the answers.
— Are UFOs real?
— Did we land on the moon in 1968?
— Did Bush knock down the towers?
— Was Paul Wellstone's death an accident?
— The Oklahoma City bombing? Wasn't that just another U.S. government terrorist exercise? Or not.
— Waco. We burned kids, right? You can see flames shooting out of the tanks. Or not.
— Is Bigfoot real?
— Is there a God?
... What makes you think that?
One thing that harms our movement, that saps our brain power and destroys our credibility is conspiracy thinking.
The greatest conspiracies are obvious, like the Iraqi invasion.
Most conspiracies that folks become obsessed with are highly evolved projections based on a grain of possibility.
The best thing to do is understate that possibility and move on to things we actually know about like the undeniable fact that a parasitic 2 percent of our population robs the rest of us blind or that we are seeing the solidification of a police state or that global warming will probably end our civilization.
OK, no, there is no "god," there is only us, but we are conscious and can knowingly take control of our conditions and future.
NAD: What does a hospital coordinator do?
You are also a poet.
Do you hospital coordinate just to be able to write?
It was a gig. It's over.
I write, but there's no money in it.
I struggle to find some way of making a living that won't kill my body or my mind and both have taken work-related hits.
NAD: Do you have hope in Obama?
Yes & No.
I think Obama will be good domestically in dealing with labor, health, and environmental issues.
I think when it comes to foreign policy, he's just another wrong-headed imperialist looking after the interests of the corporate pig-state.
NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? What are they?
What did you absolutely have to get done by noon today?
How about by Christmas 2009?
No, though I do have a mug with the Communist Party logo that I like.
Noon? Get a job, catch up on the mail so I can get ready to do another issue of the mag.
Get some groceries.
NAD:What else would you like to add? What else should I have asked?
Not much, but your readers, such as they might be, should consider the importance of supporting progressive working class culture.
Our culture shapes our consciousness and if we leave it up to the moneyed class, we just remain vengeance oriented and addicted to crappy stuff we don't need.
It's up to us to create a sane culture of collective responsibility.
Create and/or support those that do!
NAD: If you would like — please insert a link here to something you would like linked to, with a brief tag re: where that link goes:
A coupla links:
http://partisanpress.org -- the mag
http://jadedprol.blogspot.com/ -- a blog I sporadically update
If you search the archives below, you will find, in a sort of order [last to first], interviews with:
Timbre Wolf, a Tulsa peace minstrel goes to Hawaii
Steven Stothard, a radical grows in Indiana
Dale Clark, an artist in the desert
Jacqui Devenuau, Green Party organizer in Maine
Don Harkins, co-editor of The Idaho Observer
Stewart Bradley, independent film producer
Rick Smith, Cleveland area radio host
William P. Meyers, independent book publisher, political activist
Ian Woods, Canadian publisher, 9/11 Truth activist
Richard D. Brinkman, Edmonton, Canada 9/11 Truth
Lynn Berg, New York City actor
Alejandro Rojas, of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network
Brian Kasoro, publisher of The Liberator magazine
Brother Raymond, walked from Denver to D.C., for truth
Korey Rowe, one of the producers of Loose Change
Dave Zweifel, editor of The Madison Capital Times
Cathleen Howard, expatriate, from Tucson to Mexico, to pursue her dreams
Sander Hicks, Brooklyn radical entrepreneur, writer, publisher
Joe Bageant, America's blue-collar author
Frida Berrigan, a lifetime of faith, hope and love
Denise Diaz, brewing up a revolution, at The Ritual Cafe in Des Moines
Deanna Taylor, Green Party activist, teacher, in Salt Lake City
Rossie Indira-Vltchek, writer, filmmaker in Jarkarta, Indonesia
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Pacifica reporter in Gaza
Delaney Bruce, Friends of Peltier
Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs
Michael Sprong, South Dakota Catholic Worker
Brian Terrell, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Bob Graf, One of the Milwaukee 14
Loren Coleman, Bigfoot researcher
Monty Borror, Sci-Fi artist from Virginia
David Ray, Great American Poet
Jack Blood, radio show host, in Austin, Texas
Danny Schechter, A Real Reporter
Bob Kincaid, host, Head-On Radio Show
Tony Packes, Animal Farm Radio Host, Keeping An Eye on Big Brother
Richard Flamer, Working With the Poor in Chiapas
David Ray Griffin, 9/11 Truth activist author
Barry Crimmins, U.S. comedian, author, social activist
Bret Hayworth, political reporter for the Sioux City [IA] Journal
Lisa Casey, publisher of website All Hat No Cattle
Joe & Elaine Mayer, activist couple in Rochester, Minnesota
Fr. Darrell Rupiper, U.S. priest revolutionary
Whitney Trettien, MIT student, Green Party activist
Meria Heller, radio show host
Phil Hey, professor, poet
John Crawford, book publisher
Steve Moon, Iowa Bigfoot researcher
Carol Brouillet, California social activist, 9/11 Truth
Russell Brutsche, Santa Cruz artist
Kevin Barrett, professor, radio show host, 9/11 Truth activist
A'Jamal Rashad Byndon, social activist in Omaha
Chris Rooney, Vancouver, Canada Catholic Worker, website publisher
Marc Estrin, political novelist, from the left
Peter Dale Scott, poet, professor, author, activist
Anthony Rayson, anarchist zine publisher, works with prisoners
Alice Cherbonnier, editor of The Baltimore Chronicle, an independent newspaper