Language and Imagery in Punching Out

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Language and Imagery in Punching Out In the critical praise for the poetry of Jim Daniels which fills the back cover of the anthology, Peter Stitt of the New York Times praises Daniels’s ability to "articulate the feelings of inarticulate people," in his clear and often creative free verse style. But the culture which Daniels illuminates in his poetry is far from inarticulate, as the critic indicates; more precisely the culture articulates its feelings and emotions in a vernacular unfamiliar to those outside it and to those accustomed to the eloquence and expression of loftier themes in traditional poetry. Daniels simply distills the essence of these feelings through a gesture, a thought, an image or a scene more adroitly than the blue collar workers which surround him, using poetry to meet the hardships, hopes and concerns of this culture on its own terms. Throughout the poems contained in Punching Out, Daniels creatively manipulates the poetic devices of imagery, allusions, language and rhythm to vividly portray the oppressive environment of the factory and the demoralizing effects of the repetitive labor on its workers. One image which Daniels frequently co-opts to highlight Fords’ ironic approach to its workers is the manufacturer’s slogan. Quality appears to be job one in Daniels’s portrayal so long as it does not impede on the bottom line. Buying a cheap radio from a merchant who assures him that he is purchasing "Quality Merchandise", (author’s italics) the author curses the mal-functioning machine, remarking to himself that he should "know all about quality by how." The shrewdly placed slash in the title of "Quality/Control", again highlights the company’s ambivalent stance on quality versus profits. In the poem,... ... middle of paper ... ...over portrays the utopian vision of a fresco by Diego Rivera showing all type of workers, black and white, young and old working together for the common cause of the auto industry. Jim Daniels’s more disturbing vision shows that the industry’s real leveling effect comes not from some Socialist Unity of the workers of the world, but by stripping every worker equally of his or her human dignity. Daniels is able to capture, by the simplest of gestures and stories, the desperation of the auto workers’ lot. In "Old Green, he tells of the worker retiring after nearly half a century of dedication to the company, given an aerial photo of factory. "As hard as you look you’ll never find him," notes Daniels, and all of his poetry eloquently reflects this plight of the worker. Works Cited Daniels, Jim. Punching Out. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990.

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