There is a poet named Antler who wrote a book called Factory [City Lights #38, 1980]. He was originally from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and, like a lot of folks in that neck of the woods, he worked in factories, in his case a can factory, which I took to be a branch of Continental Can. It was a system of regimentation, oppression, life-sucking and automation.
This is not the Andy Warhol Factory.
Fact is I used to work in a factory filling Continental cans with wax. They were lidded, maybe with Antler created lids for all I know. Factory, the book, is a helleva screed that paints a true picture of the day of the factory worker in tremendous litany of felt experience.
Antler is not too well known, but Antler’s writing was acclaimed by Allen Ginsberg. Here’s a bit. He’s looking at himself in relation to another, probably long time worker, and comparing.
Don’t we both know the way
to the prong of our alarm in the dark?
How long could I work without looking up at the clock?
How long before I was watching its hands
more than watching my own package lids.
Uno: This rings so true of my factory experience. I remember Jeff DeMark really tagged it with his song I Got To Get To My Machine [It’s Waiting in Racine] which I swear he’d introduce with a poem that discussed that existential factory moment, when you look at the clock, hoping that it is 4:55 and day is done. If you estimate that you’ve reached that moment, but discover subsequently that it is, say 2.35 or even 4:05, you feel a great great defeat.Antler gets to that point with a stiletto. [Jeff told me he met Antler once in Arcata or Eureka CA.]
Dos: Antler depicts a Metropolis style factory, not unlike Ginsberg’s Moloch in Howl. It is like “The System” we used to talk about.I think sometimes the notion of this system, that eats people, came out of WWI. In South East Wisconsin in my youth, factories were just part of the terra firma. In high school or college summer days, you’d get jobs in such places. I wonder if that is happening to day. First of all, factories have moved “away;” secondly kids w the wherewithal to go to college more than then are not expected to come up with money by getting jobs of that kind. Might poke an eye out. Don’t what goes on in the factories, but for sure I see the landscaping crews of today, and they don’t have the college kids as I used to know.
Oops, seems like the Saturday Night Review of Literature just gave way to the Ma and Pa Kettle Show.
Whatever. I did podcast reading of portion of Antler’s Factory. Sorry: I recorded this on back porch and it sounds like it. Also I interrupt poem at one point and disturb the historical thoroughness by talking about my mother [as I would if I were here and you were here]. Also: I comment on the MP3 that I first read Antler in 1970. But it was really 1979 or 1980 [in CoEvolutionary Quarterly].
Jack Vaughan reading from Antler’s Factory – MP3
[Right click to download, or Left click to spawn your chosen Audio Playback App. Whatever you do, click! Ask a youth for help.]
Antler on Amazon
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