Literature of the Global Working Class: Guest Editor's Introduction

By Mish, Jeanetta Calhoun | World Literature Today, November/December 2013 | Go to article overview

Literature of the Global Working Class: Guest Editor's Introduction


Mish, Jeanetta Calhoun, World Literature Today


When I began my PhD studies and told my advisor I would write my dissertation on contemporary American working-class women's poetry, her response was, "Is there such a thing?" I do not tell this story to criticize my advisor-I heard the same question from almost everyone I discussed it with: writers, professors, readers. However, I knew that my own poetry was firmly grounded in the working class-before I started college as a thirty-sevenyear- old single mother (and the first woman in my direct line to complete high school), I had held many common women's working-class jobs of the period: waitress, bartender, nurse's aide, telephone solicitor. I wrote poems in my head while changing beds at nursing homes and mixing drinks, then sketched them down later when I had time. My mother, too, working class all her life, wrote poems; after she died, I found boxes of her poetry in a closet. And I knew I had read published poetry and fiction and creative nonfiction that spoke to me as a working-class person, of the structures of feeling found among the working classes, of work itself, of working-class humor, and, often, of the despair and danger that attends working-class life. The point is, working-class writing is out there, everywhere-the difficulty is that it's not often recognized.

I hope that this working-class writing issue of World Literature Today serves you, our readers, as an introduction to the enormous range of contemporary, worldwide, working-class writing. From Ireland, Michael Pierse brings us the writings of Paula Meehan, Martin Lynch, and Dermot Bolger, arguing that they are successors to the rich tradition of Irish working-class writing. Australian Sarah Attfield shares her own poetry, poetry by an indigenous Australian, and a working-class rap. Karen Kovacik interviews Ewa Parma, from Poland; we also include poems by Parma. Wendell Ricketts has translated two excerpts from contemporary Italian working-class novels; one, Michela Murgia's "The World Must Be Told" is included in the print edition, and the other, Peppe Fiore's "Anyone Can Be Replaced" can be found in our web exclusives. …

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