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The Work-Shy

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2016 • 160 pp. 18 figures 7 x 9"
Poetry / Poetry - American

$24.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7678-1

$18.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7679-8

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

A poetic archive of subcultures rooted in the lives and language of the unsettled

The Work-Shy painstakingly reconstructs a chorus of voices rescued from hermetic “colonies” and fragile communes, from worlds that work in ways that defy work as we know it. Its poetic assemblages offer direct testimony from the first youth prison in California and from asylums for the chronically insane (preserved in the Prinzhorn Collection in Germany and the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York City). Painful facts emerge about “sterilization mills” in California, where thousands of individuals became subject to compulsory procedures (policies that shaped eugenics practice in the Third Reich). In addition, the poems “translate” asylum texts--the writing of the insane--into a wider field of social conflict and utopian fragments of not-yet-being.
Activating what Susan Howe calls “the telepathy of the archive” (and Peter Gizzi dubs “archeophonics” in the title of his latest collection), the poems of The Work-Shy become part of a “book of listening,” occupying identities rooted in the demimonde and in places of confinement. Voices echo to form a ragged chain of soliloquies, kenning and keening, riddles and rants. Published under the collective, anonymous signature of the BLUNT RESEARCH GROUP, the book operates at the crossroads of lyric and documentary poetries, of singularity and collectivism. An online readers companion will be available at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Herein are the voices of children sacrificed to the barbaric dogmas of eugenics and conformity; an archeology of inhumanity that should haunt us forever.” —Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz

The Work-Shy is a remarkable sequence of poems composed by way of writing practices that restore the possibilities for lyric poetry and its historical imagination, using documentary techniques and a principled cultural poetics. The poems are commanding verbal performances that reveal how institutions are empowered to confiscate meaning from the most vulnerable. To read these poems is to come face to face with the contemporary cruelties of historical means. The result is heartbreaking.”—Roberto Tejada, author of Full Foreground

“Extending the commitments of Situationism and Dickinson’s romance with No, The Work-Shy is an apology for idleness, the deliberate liberation of time. Seeking to expose a ‘utopian surplus,’ these poems pit nomadic words—a cacophony of ‘countersigns’—against their wardens. By listening to the idiolect of Outside, the anonymous collective that remixed this book speaks from—rather than for—those whose minds were outcast, their bodies imprisoned.”—Andrew Zawacki, author of Videotape

“The Work Shy documents moments in time that resonate with us still, as each breathes up through history like an iron shackle around the leg. A heartbreaking and necessary read.”Dawn Lundy Martin, author of Life in a Box is a Pretty Life

The language of The Work-Shy cuts straight through, as sharp and alive as the eyes that peer out from its photographs. Our words are like people, one inmate declarespeople who change our hearts.  Yet suddenly we realize that each poem rivers across the page, where we can either drown or float, and the tension between leaves us gasping for air.”Carmen Gimenez-Smith, author of Milk and Filth

From the Book:

Victor R

Then he turned up suddenly in El Paso, Texas.

Needs taming.

One day he took all the new brooms
and cut off the handles then again
he cut the locks off the lockers--said he wanted them
to make something

BLUNT RESEARCH GROUP is a nameless constellation of poets, artists, and scholars from diverse backgrounds. Work by BLUNT RESEARCH GROUP has been published by Noemi Press and has appeared in museums across the country.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 17:09:48 -0500