Social Poetics

Essay by Mark Nowak

March 10, 2020 • 6 x 9 • 288 pages • 978-1-56689-567-5

A people’s history of the poetry workshop from a poet and labor activist heralded by Adrienne Rich for “regenerating the rich tradition of working-class literature.”

Social Poetics documents the imaginative militancy and emergent solidarities of a new, insurgent working class poetry community rising up across the globe. Part autobiography, part literary criticism, part Marxist theory, Social Poetics presents a people’s history of the poetry workshop from the founding director of the Worker Writers School. Nowak illustrates not just what poetry means, but what it does to and for people outside traditional literary spaces, from taxi drivers to street vendors, and other workers of the world.

About the Author

Mark Nowak is the author of Coal Mountain Elementary, Shut Up Shut Down, and Revenants. He is the recipient of the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism and fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim foundations. Nowak has led poetry workshops for workers and trade unions in the US, South Africa, the UK, Panama, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. He is currently a professor of English at Manhattanville College and the founding director of the Worker Writers School.


Praise for Mark Nowak

“[Nowak is willing] to submerge his own voice beneath these other accounts, privileging other voices—those of survivors, widows, journalists—above his own. He is a legislator whose job is allowing others to be heard.” —Leslie Jamison, The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“The aim of making poetry to make change, to make history, is what makes Nowak’s work most radical and most daring, moving into the realm where knowing is a kind of collective being and doing.” —Philip Metres, Kenyon Review

“Mark Nowak is restoring the perspective of working class Americans to contemporary American poetry.” —The Buffalo News