Highlands Ranch, CO 80126
Red Hen Press
Paper and cloth, 231 pages
ISBN-10: 1-59509-083-2 (paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59709-083-4 (paper)
ISBN-10: 1-59709-084-0 (cloth)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59709-084-1 (cloth)
used to be called an epic poem is now a novel-in-verse. What used to be difficult and obtuse, and
purposely so as in Pound s Cantos, is
now concise and clear, at least as practiced by David Mason poet, essayist,
Fullbright Fellow, and longtime resident of southern Colorado where his family
has lived for at least four generations.
What the miners wanted was not much the right to collectively bargain as a union, an eight-hour work day instead of twelve, pay for dead work (shoring up the mine with timbers to keep it from collapsing), honesty in weighing the tonnage they dug, and the ability to buy goods from stores other than those owned by the company. To get these meager gains, they walked off the job and camped outside during the fall, winter, and spring of 1913-14. When sporadic violence escalated between the striking miners and company guards, the governor sent in the National Guard, which quickly became the arm of the company.
What Mason does best with this story is weave together historical details, actual historical figures, and the characters of his imagination characters you root for. As created by Mason, there s Luisa, daughter of a Mexican mother who died young and a Welsh immigrant miner aptly named Mole, killed by an accidental explosion set off by the candle on his helmet. And there are the other miners, such as Too Tall McIntosh, Lefty Calabrini, and Cash Jackson, most of them immigrants, trying to chase the American dream down in dark holes in the ground where, in the short span of four years, explosions killed 272 miners due to the dangerous mine gas unique to the Rocky Mountains.
There are also
historical figures, such as Mother Jones, held against her will in the
While Mason s sympathies obviously lie with the miners and the hardships they suffered, he does not paint with a black and white brush, but in shades of gray, and he also shows, within the ranks of the union, the prejudice and racism the Americans had for many of the striking immigrants Irish, Welsh, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Japanese, and others.
corruption, ruthless struggle, men who only cared
for power. No cause could lift its people very long,
their flags expedient,
their faith a way of shutting other people out,
their unions nothing more than gangs collecting dues,
and over everything the hypocritical rich
collecting art and smothering the immigrants.
Mason s poetry in
In short, Mason s