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Shut Up Shut Down

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  86 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In the grand, narrative tradition of Gwendolyn Brooks and Edward Sanders, this riveting collection of poetic plays and photo-documentary poems exposes the human cost of corporate greed and gives voice to the growing crisis faced in communities across America.

“The several long poems that make up this book build into each other with devastating force and understatement, brea...more
Paperback, 161 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Coffee House Press (first published October 1st 2004)
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Last year, I read Mark Nowak's book, Coal Mountain Elementary, a work that is not so much a collection of poetry, but a collage of memoirs, interviews, and formal reports exploring the world of coal mining in both America and China. I was fascinated by this book -- so much so that I knew I had to travel back in publication time a bit and read Nowak's earlier book, Shut Up Shut Down.

Shut Up Shut Down is not for every poetry reader -- much like Coal Mountain Elementary, this collection is made up...more
Aug 12, 2009 Ian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Nowak is a booming giant. Working in the documentary style, he brings poetry back down to earth, into the mines, the shuttered steel mills, the picket line. Moreover, while contemporary poetics tinkers with identity politics, Nowak goes right for the taboo jugular: class. Oh wait, I forgot, there is no class struggle in America.
Nowak's utilization of multiple speakers acts as perspective on history itself. But in the history contained here, the working class finally has a chance to speak against all the background noise. News clippings, found text, and silly rules of grammar act as a backdrop against which are told the stories of steel-workers and common laborers. Indeed, these stories of the working class act as clarification against public opinion, with Nowak rendering first-hand statements by the workers in bold. Th...more
Alyson Hagy
A very strong, very compelling collection of poetry. I've read it twice, and I particularly admire the "collage" of voices (including the testimony of working Americans) that Nowak uses to structure these complex poems. The sequences "June 19, 1982" and "Francine Michalek Drives Bread" are probably my favorites, but I'm not sure it does the book any service to choose favorites when Nowak's power is accumulative, when his innovative structures, his sharp use of historical documents, build from se...more
Feb 17, 2008 Joe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Good stuff. Would make a comprehensible introduction to collage in poetry--Nowak's techniques illuminate rather than obscure, seem more intent on humanizing a subject than eviscerating/obscuring a text. Though there is also a fair amount of academicy language spliced in there as well. Regardless, Nowaks willingness to both tell the story of the working class as tied to particular regions/shut downs while still critiquing the racism that prevents "class solidarity" is pretty rare.
anthony e.
The middle of this book was interesting, and I found myself really enticed by a lot of the allusions made by the juxtaposed found text, but the beginning and the end were just too obtuse for me to find anything of worth in. This isn't necessarily a shortcoming of the owrk itself; it's more likely tied to my inability to fully grasp what project Nowak is attempting with the works. I just couldn't get into them though.
a pretty good book of poetry on labor, labor rights, american blue-collar jobs, manufacturing towns, factory closures, etc. Pretty straight-forward but every now and again, Nowak gets in some sharp sharp lines. And I'm a labor sympathizer...
This is one of those books that I feel like the universe should have told me about sooner, should have knocked on my door and been like, Um, what are you doing not reading this? Wow.
whoops! I'm not good with the stars yet. Not one star, but five. One of the best books in recent years!
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Coal Mountain Elementary Revenants Workers of the Word, Unite and Fight! Then, and Now: Selected Poems, 1943-1993 Goth: Undead Subculture

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