ONCE I WAS TOLD THE AIR
WAS NOT FOR BREATHING
Poems by Paola Corso
With Introduction by Michele Fazio and Michelle M. Tokarczyk
(University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2012)
"Corso's precise and vivid poems are lyric evidence of the harsh lives and labors of working-class men and women. She documents the dangerous conditions of workers in steel mills and sweatshops, of anyone downwind of industrial polluters' carcinogenic fumes. Tragically, much of our air now 'is not safe for breathing,' but these essential and heart-breaking poems are pure oxygen. Breathe deeply and learn from this wise poet."
—MAGGIE ANDERSON, author of Windfall: New and Selected Poems
"Paola Corso sings of bodies—wounded bodies, beaten bodies, defeated bodies, bodies weakened and diseased, dead bodies. These are brave bodies. They are the bodies of working people from mines and factories, from Pittsburgh and from New York, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 and from the sweatshops of Chinatown following the attack on the Twin Towers. They are the bodies of American girls, Chinese girls, Taiwanese girls. This poet is relentless in her search for the traces of these unsung, the workers whose voices and stories resonate throughout this small book of epic proportions. Corso is the rescue poet worker digging through the rubble, determined to bring the stories of the forgotten to light. Paola Corso has given us poetry of witness in all its power to move us to remember and to act."
—EDVIGE GIUNTA, Writing with an Accent: Contemporary Italian American Women Authors
“Meticulously footnoted, the book has a wonderful quality of poetry blooming out of a great ocean of information and lost voices, past and present.”
—MEREDITH SUE WILLIS, Books for Readers
“…animated by simmering working-class anger.”
—BILL O'DRISCOLL, The City Paper
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