Philip Levine, named as the next poet laureate, worked grunt jobs in the Detroit auto plants before developing his voice, and again and again he's called on his blue-collar experiences to create wonderful poetry.
In my youth I also worked the kind of grunt jobs that Mr. Levine used as material, and I'm also glad I got out of there, but I recall a certain pride from making steel at a steel mill and moving freight for a railroad. I still feel that pride today. But those jobs have pretty much fled the U.S. They're casualties of global finance and automation. Corporations actually enjoy tax advantages for moving the real work overseas, and no matter how shocked and disgusted we get from these dirty little D.C. deals, no one seems able to revoke them in Congress, where the people's representatives accept legal bribes to look the other way between bouts of telling us how much they care.
Levine's Ford plant sits empty, as I imagine the U.S. Steel plant on Chicago's South Side, where I worked, also sits empty. I know it was closed, killing the economy all around a mill that fed thousands of families, bought a lot of houses, sent kids to college (which was virtually free to city and state residents) at a number of excellent institutions.
Few young adults of today will be able to look back with pride at whatever they're doing now to get along, unless they can find a way to think fondly of clock-watching inside the kitchens of fast-food eateries.
Levine is talented enough to find poetry even in a Taco Bell, but it would be a tougher task.
Causes Ivan Goldman Supports
American Heart Association
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Beit T'Shuvah Recovery Program