Coal Mountain Elementary

Coal Mountain Elementary A singular genre defying treatise from one of America s most innovative political poets Coal Mountain Elementary remixes verbatim testimony from the surviving Sago West Virginia miners and rescue t

  • Title: Coal Mountain Elementary
  • Author: Mark Nowak Ian Teh
  • ISBN: 9781566892285
  • Page: 429
  • Format: Paperback
  • A singular, genre defying treatise from one of America s most innovative political poets, Coal Mountain Elementary remixes verbatim testimony from the surviving Sago, West Virginia miners and rescue teams, the American Coal Foundation s curriculum for schoolchildren, newspaper accounts of mining disasters in China, and full color photographs of Chinese miners by renowned pA singular, genre defying treatise from one of America s most innovative political poets, Coal Mountain Elementary remixes verbatim testimony from the surviving Sago, West Virginia miners and rescue teams, the American Coal Foundation s curriculum for schoolchildren, newspaper accounts of mining disasters in China, and full color photographs of Chinese miners by renowned photojournalist Ian Teh.A poet and labor activist heralded by Adrienne Rich for regenerating the rich tradition of working class literature, Mark Nowak regularly leads transnational poetry workshops between American and international trade unions The author of Revenants and Shut Up Shut Down, he is also a frequent contributor to the Poetry Foundation s Harriet blog.

    One thought on “Coal Mountain Elementary”

    1. Coal Mountain Elementary is ostensibly labeled as poetry, but it is also a radical sort of reportage or (and this title has always seemed cumbersome) "creative non-fiction." The book is a selection of photographs by Ian Teh and excerpts from testimonials from the 2006 Sago Mine disaster that killed 12, newspapers covering Chinese mining disasters in 2005 and 2006, and lesson plans prepared by the American Coal Foundation to teach elementary, middle, and high school students about coal, mining, a [...]

    2. I understood what this book was trying to do, and the juxtapositions that the author creates by weaving together various texts leaves am strong impression on the reader. However, this book really challenged me to re-think my ideas of 'authorship' and 'poetry.' Each of the three strands present in this book are an selection of source materials that the author had selected and arranged. In that sense, this book is a museum, a collection of voices, that has been carefully curated in order to make a [...]

    3. The cover blurb from Howard Zinn points to both the strength and, unfortunately, the weakness of this well-intentioned but ultimately flat book. Nowak's roots lie in the proletarian literature of the 1930s; he's dedicated to shining a light on the abuses of industry and to building international working class solidarity. In Coal Mountain Elementary, that means documenting the horrors of mining accidents--built into the structure of the industry--in both China and the U.S. I'm not sure readers sy [...]

    4. Twas a quick quick read. Also a rather depressing one. The last article is that of a suicide, two suicides actually. This ending is typical of many of these artsy, wake-up kind of books and while it succeeds in getting me pissed and angry and interested, it doesn't do anything constructive with that anger which bothers me. Painting a picture is good. Painting a depressing picture is important when shitty stuff is happening in the world. But leaving us to only feel overwhelmed, depressed and hope [...]

    5. This text is a radical, scattered reporting of colliery disasters in Appalachia and across China, but also a beautiful tribute to miners that succeeds in portraying the dynamism of working class culture. Technically classified as poetry, Nowak juxtaposes flat narratives (lesson plans from the American Coal Foundation and newspaper accounts of mining disasters in China) with emotive narratives (verbatim testimony from miners involved in the Sago rescue teams) and beautiful photographs. A beautifu [...]

    6. Snippets from coal mining tragedies in China and the U.S. It seems like the industry is plagued with inept leadership and greed. This is dangerous work and lives are on the line. Profits can't be measured without subtracting lives lost and debilitating diseases induced on the miners who put their well-being in jeopardy for our "cheap" energy pipedream. China evidently has lost control or simply wants no control over this industry. Apparently the production of coal is the bottom line necessity, n [...]

    7. I really, really wanted to like this book more -- especially after being bowled over by "Shut Up Shut Down." But, for me, the piece just didn't fully gel.The text alternates long quotations from Chinese newspaper article about mine disasters, with testimony from the Sago mine disaster, with photographs taken both in West Virginia and China, with school lessons put together by coal industry advocates. And while it seemed a smart way to break up the text, it ended up with the feel of a loose colla [...]

    8. Nowak translates the resolve of his daily activism on behalf of working people into art in all three of his books of poetry, Shut Up, Shut Down, Revenants, and his most recent book, Coal Mountain Elementary. Deceptively simple, Coal Mountain Elementary combines photographs, newspaper articles, eyewitness testimony, and parts of an elementary school curriculum to relay the human consequences of coal mining. The book reveals how people across the globe are daily dehumanized to support an unsustain [...]

    9. I've read this book twice, and it still has its grip on me. Nowak has done some remarkable work creating poetry from official documents/interviews/photographs/found texts in other books, but COAL MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY is his masterwork so far, in my opinion. The interplay among the news stories from China (regarding a series of horrific mining accidents over a few months in 2005-6), the edited transcripts of testimony from the Sago Mine explosion in the U.S and the "school assignments" designed by [...]

    10. Coal Mountain Elementary is one of those books I really want to write about, but have a hard time doing so. It’s not so much a book of poetry, but a collage of words and photographs. The book is a collection of reports and mini-memoirs of mining disasters in China juxtaposed against the memories of those involved in the Sago Mine Disaster here in the United States. Nowak also includes poems based on lesson plans involving coal mining history and communities. Regular readers of this blog know m [...]

    11. This book had me at its design. It overlays a coal mining community´s school math curriculum with excerpts from news clippings of coal mining disasters in China, along with more detailed reports of a coal mining disaster in the US. Powerful material each in their own right, but the juxtapositioning layers nuance along with the powerfully emotive history of tragedies that encompass coal mining.

    12. WOW!!!! I took a workshop on writing collage text and the instructor recommended this book that uses "found" language. As someone who collects found objects, I immediately ordered and read this book--in one sitting. The mixture of court transcript, news coverage, and a children's text book is pure poetry. And profound! I immediately wanted everyone else to read it too.

    13. Orchestrated rather than written--a collection of accounts, with photographs, testimonies and newspaper clippings, along with lesson plans, contrasting, calling attention to privilege and deep neglect.

    14. i liked the simple layout, the free form presentation that was more questioning than accusing. an excellent subject though, coal mining workers in u.s. and china, their work, their families, their deaths, the industry.

    15. documentary poetry exposing/looking at the coal mining industry utilizing media clips and personal testimonies and excerpts from lessons for grade-schoolers intended to teach them about mining

    16. Finished this yesterday, still ruminating, still a lot to think about. The form was thought provoking, the content shattering.

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