Seeds of Fire: Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA, edited by Jon Andersen, appeared earlier this year from Smokestack Books in Middlesbrough, UK. Mike Alewitz’s stunning mural from the Roosevelt School in New Brunswick, New Jersey (“Temporary Sanity”) graces the cover (and those not familiar with Alewitz’s work should check out Insurgent Images: The Agitprop Murals of Mike Alewitz). Epigraphs from June Jordan and Paul Robeson open the book—so take your cures from there. (And in full disclosure, an excerpt of a verse-play from yours truly appears in the collection.)

Seeds of Fire assembles together contemporary poetry that does not cower from forging lyric gestures to a “controlled burn” against the agog globalization of the now (and seemingly the next, and the next…). Jayne Cortez’s “Global Inqualities,” for example, chisels the haves together with the have nots: “There’s no food shortage/in the belly of/a minister of agriculture/Chief economic advisors are/addicted to diet pills/…Somebody else is sucking on dehydrated nipples…” Organized labor makes its appearance in poems like Martín Espada’s “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100”; creative critiques of the scientific, the environmental, and “the proletarian seed” come to center stage in Kimiko Hahn’s “Ipomoea purpurea”; poems by Adrian C. Louis and devorah major, E. Ethelbert Miller and Grace Paley, Barbara Kingsolver and Adrienne Rich and Patricia Smith and a host of others protest and prophesize and, in every instance, poeticize across the compact and contentious 175pgs from “the Other USA.” Imagine a lineage extending across Tillie Olsen and Sterling Brown and Thomas McGrath and you’ll be at the edges of the aesthetic geography that this volume seeks to extend.
And for those of you in the New York area, several contributors will be reading from the volume at the Bowery Poetry Club on August 7 at 6pm. Proceeds to benefit the Middle East Children's Alliance.

Originally Published: August 3rd, 2008

Mark Nowak is the author of Revenants (Coffee House Press, 2000), Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2008), and Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009). His writings on new labor poetics have recently appeared in The Progressive, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Poets in the 21st Century: The New...