Rising with the Underclass and Poems by Walter Rice is an unusual volume. The first 59 of 75 pages are dedicated to “A short look at the history of the United States”; the rest is poetry.
The title of the book indicates Rice’s allegiance to working people, and indeed, he is a labor activist from California. This perspective drives his choices of what to include, as in the prose section “Setting the Stage for the New Deal,” in which he is clear that “[t]he emphasis [in this section] is going to be on labor law reform.”
Rice’s prose is full of information and good examples, but it can be confusing on the sentence level, as in this convoluted question from the above section: “Before we think of freedom, should we not consider not to be worked 20 hours a day, every day, and to not to allow an employer to steal our childhood from us and keep us illiterate?”
The poems that complete the book focus on the gentle aspect of the natural world, plus three poems addressed to women. Many of the pieces contain delicate descriptions, as in the poem “The Lagoon at Sunset” which personifies eucalyptus trees: “Green fingers sheltering winged creatures / And busy songs accented by a low coo / From some hidden perch or sweet green ground, / Or in the clutch of wildflowers of gold.” The poems are not extremely original, but they make effective use of a variety of poetic devices and could speak to readers who love nature poetry.
Overall, it’s difficult to imagine the appropriate audience for such disparate ideas and styles. Poetry lovers who champion labor rights may find some nuggets here, if they don’t mind sifting through some awkward prose.
Also available as an ebook.