Some Working-class Collections

I define working-class poetry as poetry written by poets who identifies as working-class or poetry that contends with working-class issues.  The following is a very small sampling, and most of the poets listed have multiple collections that would qualify, though I only listed single volumes:

Kim Addonazio – Jimmy and Rita
Rosa Alcalá – Undocumentaries
Amiri Baraka – Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
Jan Beatty – Mad River
Gwendolyn Brooks – A Street in Bronzeville
Lorna Dee Cervantes – Emplumada
Jim Daniels – Punching Out
Sean Thomas Dougherty – Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line
Rita Dove  – Thomas and Beulah
B. H. Fairchild – The Art of the Lathe
Gary Finke – Blood Ties
Diane Gilliam Fisher – Kettle Bottom
Albert Goldbarth – Popular Culture
Teri Youmans Grimm – Dirt Eaters
Janice Harrington – Even the Hollow my Body Made is Gone
Juan Felipe Herrera – Exiles of Desire
Richard Hugo  – Death of the Kapowsin Tavern
Langston Hughes – Montage of a Dream Deferred; Madam to You
Jess Tyhimba – Leadbelly
Galway Kinnell – The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the World
Philip Levine  – What Work Is
Larry Levis – The Dollmaker’s Ghost
Edgar Lee Masters – Spoon River Anthology
Leslie Mcilroy – Rare Space
Marge Piercy – Louder, We Can’t Hear You (yet)
Naomi Replansky – Ring Song
Lola Ridge – The Ghetto
Muriel Rukeyser – The Book of the Dead
Genevieve Taggart – Calling Western Union
Margaret Walker  – For My People
Karen Weyant – Stealing Dust

I welcome any additions to the list.



  1. Bill Knott said

    glad to see you’re not including self-published books like my Selected Political Poems 1965-2012:

    because of course only books published by legitimate publishers are real—

  2. Bill Knott said

    working-class? i grew up in an orphanage with no family no money no educational opportunities … but i don’t qualify for your list it seems

  3. Bill Knott said

    The irony is that all those poets listed above, you know, none of them put their work out for free so people with no money can read it: you have to pay cash money to read their poems because you have to buy their books to read their work,

    whereas all my books of poetry are posted online for free open access at my blog—

    guess that’s another reason why you don’t have me on your list—

  4. Great! I meant to ask you about this in class the other day. A poet, and a mind-reader.

  5. I see one of my favorite poets listed, Amiri Baraka – and the
    book you’ve listed is the first one of his I ever read. The
    omission of Bill Knott is puzzling, yet it gives validity to his often
    stated claims of a poetry-establishment bias and its unified
    dismissal of his work. I am among those who believe he’s the
    poetic genius many lesser poets must secretly wish didn’t exist.

  6. mcbattiste said

    Bill and Johnny,

    Thank you for bringing Bill’s work to my attention. The omission of his name wasn’t intentional. I am a student of working-class poetry, not an expert. This experiment in blogging is a great opportunity for me to learn about gaps in my knowledge, and you both revealed one. The list, as I said, is limited, and I’m sure that there are other important names that I omitted. Thank you for widening the conversation.

  7. How weird is this? Bill, I too have not heard of your work (my bad), but I have not heard of lots of people’s work, so when I read a post from Jericho Brown about you trying to understand Roger Reeves’ work (I did not find the article, but read some of both of your poems) I felt delight in discovering TWO new poets. Then here you are upset that Michele didn’t know your work. Your name TWICE in one hour and never before in my life. Kismet/Karma/Krazy? I like your idea of giving your poems away for free and tend to give my books away a lot, though they cost a fair amount to buy — nobody buys them except me — to give away. : ) I suppose I could defeat the whole cycle by putting them online. Michele rocks, as a writer and a person (and a mom — and a friend). I say good for her to start this list and open the doors to keep it going. Shall I send you my books as word docs?

  8. This is a terrible list. Corso & Kerouac? Bukowski? Ted Berrigan? A hundred or more others better than, for example, Addonizio?

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