A belated Labor Day-related post… Perhaps still germane, considering news organizations are still buzzing and dissecting President Obama’s speech, delivered yesterday here in Detroit.

Read the Free Press article on poet Philip Levine, who was recently named this year’s Poet Laureate.

Listen to the NPR (/PRI) radio program “Here & Now” – as Levine discusses his new work Absolute Truth – and reads one of his most famous poems (sample below):

What Work Is

by Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is–if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants…


For the record:
Reported last week by The London Evening Standard:

London should be investing in its libraries as vital community assets in times of economic hardship instead of closing them, the chief of New York‘s biggest library service said today.”

Link: – This story ran in the wake of Westminster’s St. James Library closing its doors last month. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Christopher Platt, director of collections and circulation operations at New York Public Library, said:

“”The staff are working leaner and meaner than in the past and they’re dedicated. As the economy turned, people relied on us more – not just for books, but to write CVs, or use our internet because they couldn’t afford it any more. They were coming to learn things, and very importantly because they felt the library was somewhere they could still feel valuable while they were looking for a job.”

More info:


Other titles of interest, on the subject of Labor

CHAVS: The Demonization of the Working Class (Owen Jones)

Re-made in the USA : how we can restore jobs, retool manufacturing, and compete with the world (Todd Lipscomb). 

Re-Made in the USA lays out the choice Americans have between doing nothing, and doing what we do best-rolling up our sleeves and working hard to fix the problem.



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