The Worker-Writer Festival was founded to celebrate the poems and stories of those who grind away at day jobs and set pen to paper when they can snatch a moment. The founders, members of the National Writers Union, say it’s for "those of us who can put into words what others of us are feeling."
Last year, the festival’s first, the reading, songs and music went on for more than four hours because no one wanted to leave. This year’s authors will include a postal worker on "Shooting the Breeze at the Post Office" – yes, going postal – and factory hands who are more than "a cog to be screwed with," in the words of Ford worker Thomas J. Smith.
Electrician, biker and poet Jerry Borsenik says he writes because "I have very strong feelings about the way factory workers are portrayed in the media. They show us as a bunch of bubbas, misogynists and racists. I want people to know the way we live. We’re really not that different from people on the outside."
Many of last year’s pieces focused on work and/or class hatred. Smith writes:
What happened was the factory ...
Management waged psychological war:
I am nothing. I’ll never be anything ...
One day I looked at the map of my face ...
I was too young to die inside ...
One day, I’ll write something that will last longer than the
In "Lakeshore Drives," teacher Anca Vlasopolos writes:
When first I came to Detroit they
took me, well wishers,
to show me the materialized
if I persisted and worked very very
I could still never have ...
Newspaper striker Stephen Jones wrote a song and introduced it like this: "In the midst of the Detroit newspaper strike, I found myself compelled by the spirit of journalistic fairness to seek out and celebrate the cultural traditions of corporate management ... After exhaustive research I was able to uncover the following fragment of a single management folk song ... An attached clip from an annual report indicated that the song originally included two other verses – involving heart and courage, it seems – but that ... the song, like the company’s work force, had been downsized:
(to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz)
Well it’s hard to run a paper, it ain’t no easy caper
When workers all complain
That I love to make them suffer but now I can make things
’Cause I haven’t got a brain ...
In his introduction to the book compiled of last year’s readings, poet M.L. Liebler writes, "Workers of the world unite, rewrite and read aloud!" The collection is available for 10 bucks.
The June 5 Festival is co-sponsored by the National Writers Union and the YMCA’s Writer’s Voice program, at the UAW Region 1A Hall, 9650 S. Telegraph in Taylor. To register to read or sing, call Sam Stark at 313-926-5291 or Kathie Apter at 313-272-5558.Jane Slaughter is a frequent contributor to Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org