Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Book Review: The Workaday Speech of the Service Industry

Using the language of line cooks and dishwashers, Fred Shaw publishes his first poetry collection.




 

The title of Fred Shaw’s debut poetry collection, Argot, refers to that specialized vocabulary used by particular social groups. It’s a way of talking about ourselves without being explicit. In other words, the way we talk, the very language that we use, marks us as belonging to a particular community. Pittsburghese is a good example. If you’re visiting Ireland, say, and you overhear someone in the pub say “yinz,” “worsh” and “redd up,” you immediately know there’s a yinzer in the house.

Shaw teaches writing and literature at Point Park and Carlow universities, but like many folks teaching in universities, he’s had to pick up other work to make ends meet. He’s spent a lot of time in the service industry, and the poems in this collection reflect those experiences. The language we use on the job marks us as much as any uniform, and in these poems the workaday speech of line cooks and dishwashers is the signature sound:
 

In the sweaty restaurant kitchen,
where I’ll learn to cuss in Mexican,
tattooed line-cooks talk s---
in voices
nicked as the bone-white
monkey bowls we stack and fill.


Shaw fills his poems with the stuff of the workplace: recycling bins, Aquafina bottles, a dropped plate of scallops. It’s the accretion of detail, which creates a lived-in world on the page. Shaw’s exhausted restaurant workers sweating in kitchens while Perry Como sings overhead feel distinctly real.

Perhaps the finest work in this collection is a series of poems about the author’s father. Elsewhere in these pages are youthful remembrances of punk shows at the Electric Banana, fist fights and the discovery of sex aided by “a spongy copy of Penthouse / stashed in the woods.” But in these emotionally resonant poems about his father, Shaw lets his guard down and reveals himself more fully to the reader.
 


Lori Jakiela also is concerned with how we create our identities and the language we use to define who we are. In Jakiela’s case, that is as a child of adoption. Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe is Jakiela’s third memoir and her finest work to date.

This is the story of Jakiela’s search for her birth mother. It is, as is so often the case with the author’s work, at once harrowing, hilarious and cry-yourself-to-sleep sad. What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be someone’s child? This is the onion Jakiela attempts to unravel as she tries to understand the mother who gave her away. The search for her lost family brings with it a deeper appreciation for her adoptive parents.

Lori Jakiela is one of our very finest local writers, and her books are wonderful gifts. If you haven’t yet read her, do yourself the favor of starting right here. 
 



 


 

Upcoming readings:

Pittsburgh Poetry Collective/ The Pittsburgh Poetry Collective is an organization with a deep commitment to self-expression, social justice and the exploration of identity. It’s also the home of Steel City Slam, the popular weekly event featuring the city’s finest spoken-word artists.

Slams are a great big blender of classical poetry, hip-hop, political speech and performance art all whipped together in the shape of a game show. For the 13-to-19-year-old bracket, there’s Young Steel, a writing workshop and open mic. This is a great place for the precocious budding wordsmith to get his or her start.

[Steel City Slam: Capri Pizzeria & Bar, 6001 Penn Ave., East Liberty, Tuesdays; Young Steel: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, East Liberty Branch, 130 S. Whitfield St., first Wednesday of every month, pghpoetry.org]

Poetry and prose readings/ Squirrel Hill’s Te Cafe is a fine place to unwind with a flavorful brew and a great book. Now, it’s also a great place to hear live poetry and prose. Readings are family-friendly, so bring along the kiddies. [2000 Murray Ave., 412/422-8888, second Wednesday of every month] 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

The Sacred Spaces Tour takes visitors to the borough’s churches, mosques and historic buildings.

Waste Not: Kelly Lane's Fashion Designs are Eco-Chic

After noting how much fabric ends up in landfills, Pittsburgh designer Kelly Simpson-Scupelli found a way to incorporate the unused scraps into her fashion line.

Three Rivers Champion: Sloane Davidson

Davidson started an organization that gives refugee and immigrant families aid based on real, person-to-person relationships, not transactions.

The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The prehistoric drama is here to answer a question no one asked about the world's first-ever dog.

“Night of the Living Dead” to Appear on the Big Screen Again

The cult classic will be screened at the Byham Theater in honor of the 50th anniversary of its debut.

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The light romcom is made for pleasing audiences — and in that respect, it succeeds.

Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Owners David and Victor Rodriguez also operate two breweries in Madrid, Spain.

Revisiting Fat Head's

The South Side stalwart punches above its weight thanks to good beer and gigantic sandwiches.

In Ben They Trust

Going into his 15th professional season, Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains the key to a successful season.

PM on KD: The Fall Weddings Issue

PM Associate Editor Lauren Davidson appears on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to talk about the fall Weddings issue.

The Airbnb of Camping Has Started Pitching Tents in Pennsylvania

The startup Tentrr connects landowners looking for extra cash with interested campers.

Painting Made Simple: Paintzen Launches in Pittsburgh

Partnering with PPG Paints, the company uses an online platform to match customers with professional painters and provide supplies.

New TV Series Shot in Pittsburgh Area Premiering This Month

See if you recognize any of the locations in the thriller “One Dollar.”

Bocce, Pasta, Music and More Highlight Little Italy Days

Experience Italian culture and cuisine during Bloomfield’s annual Little Italy Days.

Vintage Details Give Weddings Classic Feel

Combining the old and the new, these couples used their vintage details to create a modern-yet-elegant wedding day.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

The Sacred Spaces Tour takes visitors to the borough’s churches, mosques and historic buildings.

Comments

“Night of the Living Dead” to Appear on the Big Screen Again

“Night of the Living Dead” to Appear on the Big Screen Again

The cult classic will be screened at the Byham Theater in honor of the 50th anniversary of its debut.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Owners David and Victor Rodriguez also operate two breweries in Madrid, Spain.

Comments

Apteka’s Roasted Sunflower: Summer's Most Interesting (and Instagramable) Dish?

Apteka’s Roasted Sunflower: Summer's Most Interesting (and Instagramable) Dish?

The owners of the Bloomfield vegan eatery introduce a limited run of whole sunflower heads that you can eat like corn.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Places to Get Your Nostalgia Fix in Pittsburgh

6 Best Places to Get Your Nostalgia Fix in Pittsburgh

Ah, the good old days. They may be gone, but there are still a few places where you can get a blast from the past.

Comments

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

Our dining critic picks his favorite ice cream, ice pop, frozen custard, vegan delight and more.

Comments


Revisiting Fat Head's

Revisiting Fat Head's

The South Side stalwart punches above its weight thanks to good beer and gigantic sandwiches.

Comments

TopGolf is Big, Ridiculous, Still Fun

TopGolf is Big, Ridiculous, Still Fun

The new driving-range game is way over the top, but the game it's offering is fun and they'll ensure you have a good time.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
In Ben They Trust

In Ben They Trust

Going into his 15th professional season, Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains the key to a successful season.

Comments

Steelers’ Saint Vincent Saga Even More Inspiring This Summer

Steelers’ Saint Vincent Saga Even More Inspiring This Summer

Ryan Shazier's battle back from a paralyzing injury last season and his subsequent rehabilitation from spinal stabilization surgery is a more compelling saga than the Steelers’ quest to reach Super Bowl LIII.​

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The prehistoric drama is here to answer a question no one asked about the world's first-ever dog.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The light romcom is made for pleasing audiences — and in that respect, it succeeds.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Vintage Details Give Weddings Classic Feel

Vintage Details Give Weddings Classic Feel

Combining the old and the new, these couples used their vintage details to create a modern-yet-elegant wedding day.

Comments

When Asking for Their Hand Doesn’t Go As Planned

When Asking for Their Hand Doesn’t Go As Planned

These proposal faux pas serve as a reminder that sometimes things have to go wrong to end up right.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Painting Made Simple: Paintzen Launches in Pittsburgh

Painting Made Simple: Paintzen Launches in Pittsburgh

Partnering with PPG Paints, the company uses an online platform to match customers with professional painters and provide supplies.

Comments

Make Your Mark by Entering Pittsburgh’s Handmade Arcade

Make Your Mark by Entering Pittsburgh’s Handmade Arcade

Artists have until Sunday to submit their applications to the independent craft fair held annually in December.

Comments