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 ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Tax Credit Brought Mister Rogers Flick to Pittsburgh

The granting of the credit means the majority, if not most of the movie starring Tom Hanks, will indeed be shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Jeff Goldblum Day is Causing a Stir in the ’Burgh

Local venues will be celebrating the native actor Friday with Goldblum-themed merchandise and events.

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Pittsburgh Developer Offers Location for Riverfront Swings

A developer in the South Side may fulfill KDKA anchor Ken Rice’s wish for shaded benches along the city’s riverfronts.

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Expert Opinions on How HQ2 Could Change Pittsburgh

From jobs to housing to technology, six areas which would be impacted if Amazon chose Pittsburgh for its HQ2.

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

The 400-Word Review: The First Purge

The prequel to the horror series has plenty to say. It's just no good at saying it.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

Comments

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments


Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Parking-lot punk, polished Potter and other July attractions.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Anthrocon returns this weekend for its 22nd annual convention. Here’s the story of one local couple who took advantage of the fact their wedding coincided with the annual gathering.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Plant and grow the ingredients you need to make a fresh summer drink.

Comments