The struggle and anguish in finding meaningful work in an economically depressed city
This powerful collection of poetry features a chain-smoking, working-class Italian American woman struggling to support herself and find meaningful work in a depressed mill town. She endures the indignity of a low-paid job that she can’t afford to leave. The poems follow her tumultuous relationship with her father, a retired mill worker, her love for her educated uncle dying of cancer, and her escape from this soiled life through her ritual of doing laundry.
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Reviews / Endorsements:
“Paola Corso’s The Laundress Catches Her Breath focuses like a Leica on the details of daily urban working class life from a fiercely rendered narrative perspective. Pioneering a mode of tough yet poignant documentary verse, Corso draws us into the grainy, grimy world of factory and clothesline, diner and lung disease and filthy water with extraordinary skill. Her collection is, in fact, breathtaking.”—Sandra Gilbert
“Paola Corso takes us inside the world of the union card and the steel mill. This daughter of Pittsburgh recalls the black smoke that filled the skies of the city, how it breed a tough voice . . . I could do my old man’s job. I got muscles . . . Corso remind us that what we breathe in is what we breathe out—as she write about the nature of work: By the time she pins/the last of the load on the line/the first hung is dirty again.”—Jan Beatty
From the Book:
She washes colors but prefers whites,
bleaching streaks of yellow and mottled gray
grease on her apron from a shift at the fryer, stains
that can’t hide in dyes of mulberry or hunter green.
She takes them on
face to face like school girls she fought
and snapped in two.
She walks away with a loose tooth that she yanks out,
tarred from cigarette smoke. She couldn’t
get it white no matter how hard
PAOLA CORSO is an award-winning author of seven books of poetry and fiction set in her native Pittsburgh.