Edit ModuleShow Tags
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

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

What Unites Us In the Wake of the Tree of Life Tragedy

We asked local faith leaders for their response to the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill –– and how we can come together and more forward as a community.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Molinaro Ristorante

Ron Molinaro's Downtown restaurant offers high-end Italian dishes made with top-notch ingredients, but is it worth the price premium?

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2018 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished judges in the field.

Nursing Shortage in Pittsburgh Calls for Creative Solutions

RetuRN to Practice entices retired nurses back Into the field.

Fine Art Meets High Fashion at the Carnegie International

With the Carnegie International as the backdrop, we feature work by local fashion designer Elaine Healey, who has been morphing from luxury womenswear to a more “non-binary” style.

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Pittsburgh's Tomorrow – What We Need in the Future

As the year comes to a close, we look forward to what Pittsburgh can be –– and what we'd like to see change –– in the coming years.

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Drink Like the French on Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Why and where to celebrate on Thursday, which marks the annual release of the young wine.

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

She thought she was going on a simple scavenger hunt. She never dreamed it would end with a wedding.

Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

We should be relieved that the tech giant opted not to move in.

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

Instead of one city, the giant retailer is splitting its second headquarters between northern Virginia and New York City.

Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

The Portland, Ore-based lighting and furnishings store, which shares space with a high-end coffeehouse from the team behind The Vandal restaurant, is located in East Liberty's Detective Building.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

We should be relieved that the tech giant opted not to move in.

Comments

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

Instead of one city, the giant retailer is splitting its second headquarters between northern Virginia and New York City.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

Comments

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Five Essential November Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential November Events in Pittsburgh

Avian art, altruistic alt-rock and more November nights.

Comments

Ten Prohibited Pittsburgh Halloween Costumes

Ten Prohibited Pittsburgh Halloween Costumes

Locally-inspired Halloween costumes that you should, under absolutely no circumstances, attempt to wear.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Comments

Steelers Have Changed the Narrative in Dramatic Fashion

Steelers Have Changed the Narrative in Dramatic Fashion

A defense that was groping to accomplish the simplest of tasks has started to dominate. The offense has stopped getting in its own way and started exploding scoreboards.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The 400-Word Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Coen Brothers' western anthology is less than the sum of its parts, but it boasts some great tales.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

She thought she was going on a simple scavenger hunt. She never dreamed it would end with a wedding.

Comments

A Tale of Two Weddings

A Tale of Two Weddings

In a theatrical performance set to stun audiences for years to come, this Pittsburgh couple took on two weddings — one featuring a mayor, a movie trailer and a secret marriage.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

The Portland, Ore-based lighting and furnishings store, which shares space with a high-end coffeehouse from the team behind The Vandal restaurant, is located in East Liberty's Detective Building.

Comments

Own a Piece of the Allegheny County Courthouse With New Gift Line

Own a Piece of the Allegheny County Courthouse With New Gift Line

Wendell August Forge is turning the century-old terracotta roof tiles into a line of collectible itms that include wall hangings and beer flight carriers.

Comments