Yet when reading Iron Moon you realize how intimate and personal these young migrant writers can be. Their micro-narratives of mechanization, as self-identified screws, nails, discarded rocks, atoms of dust, come together as a powerful chorus. They offer a deeper and more meaningful connection between the grand narrative of economic prosperity and the unheard stories of the millions who sacrifice their health, youth and sanity for our benefit.
One of the most forgiving and hopeful of the migrant worker poets is Wu Xia, whose disarming benevolence towards beneficiaries of her labor is heartbreaking:
I want to press the straps flat
so they won’t dig into your shoulders when you wear it
and then press up from the waist
a lovely waist
where someone can lay a fine hand
and on the tree-shaded lane
caress a quiet kind of love
last I’ll smooth the dress out
to iron the pleats to equal widths
so you can sit by a lake or on a grassy lawn
and wait for a breeze
like a flower
The very act of writing these poems is self-fulfilling, a way for those without a voice to counter the detachment they feel from each other, from their work, from the things they make, and to reclaim their own sense of humanity. The poems also provide an opportunity for us not to lazily point fingers at China’s human rights abuses, but to think about our own casual complicity in these workers’ hardship. Their eloquent commitment to poetry provides another way of understanding the cost of sweatshop labor that stretches way beyond cold, unfeeling economics.
I totally fell off the NaPoWriMo wagon on my poetry blog last month after it was apparent that this year, pressure to write a poem a day doesn’t necessarily produce good poetry, at least, in my case. So I’m reserving that time to read other poets more deserving of my – and your – attention.
I just bought the paperback which I guess is on preorder since it says May 17, and it’s going to be a present to myself. Sometimes it’s just nice to return to one’s roots in writing.