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Distributed for CavanKerry Press

Scraping Away

In this debut, full-length poetry collection, Fred Shaw offers a deep dive into the cost of service work. Scraping Away is a collection of narrative, sometimes elegiac poems that express the point of view of restaurant workers. Shaw considers the cost, not just in dollars, of feeding a starving public that often finds those in the service industry to be faceless and replaceable. The poems here hope to celebrate and humanize those 102.6 million workers. Exploring issues of class and labor, profit, loss, and privilege, Scraping Away reminds us that a person is more than just their job.

The speaker in these poems also explores complicated family relationships and the angst of his blue-collar, Rust-Belt adolescence. Poems delve into the speaker’s relationship with his parents, often using music and the world of things as a trigger to reflect and express memory. Scraping Away leans on clear language and an imagistic sensibility to bring readers into the community of restaurant workers and their inner lives. Reminiscent of Studs Terkel’s classic, Working, Shaw’s collection passes the issues of the working class into the realm of poetry.

88 pages | 6 x 9


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“I can’t scrape out of my head the jack-hammering of Shaw's bold new volume, Scraping Away. Its yearning beat is indelible, inscribing the ether in a long wake of testimony. Shaw’s been paying attention: to the grit and grease his people wear like praise, the sound of their last two nickels scraped against each other, sparking a conflagration of rev and witness. He’s been punching in, and he’s got the spine and will to scriven it all into words as real as concrete and rebar, shots and beers after the dead man’s shift: He’s got a jazzman’s ear and a millwright’s heart – and, more than anything, Fred Shaw reminds us that poetry is the province of light, the province of truth. I love these poems. They make me 'hunger [for] a constant moon, / one that could hover / and hold still time / before places and days like these are all gone.'"

Joseph Bathanti, author of "East Liberty"

“Turn the first page of this gritty, faithful book, and you’re smack in the middle of the working class, with poem titles like Curse, The Price of Labor, Slugger, Wrist Rocket, Iron City Sage. Fred Shaw scrapes away artifice and leaves us with a real-life voice: '…I’m keeping ice-bins full / and counters clean, wondering, at times, / if the routine has replaced the oxygen / of my dreams with a working life.' These poems vibrate with back-against-the-wall power from a man who speaks himself into being: 'I stand at the core of potential energy,' and '...Some days we gather ammo, / iron ore pellets that fall from coke cars / piled high and headed down to the ovens.' What is the cost of a life? Shaw writes the pride and dignity of class with a vernacular that can’t be faked, forced, or created—only breathed from the hands of a worker, from body to page.”

Jan Beatty, author of "Jackknife: New and Selected Poems"

“Whom or what is ‘essential’ has never been more important. Fred Shaw, however, knows the answer quite clearly. In his gritty, hard-nosed look at his life and the lives of restaurant workers, Shaw posits a way towards cultural harmony. . . Shaw’s Scraping Away is also essential. His collection, more than ever, needs to be read to make us rethink the restaurant—that chaotic, beautiful institution that is so fundamental to our lives.”

Joshua Martin | Kenyon Review

"There is power in writing about the everyday with precision, and Shaw’s poems do just that. They are contemplative and decidedly modern, full of the beauty of his own particular familiar — a blistering wok tended by an undocumented immigrant, tattooed line cooks talking shit, long-gone generations of women elbow deep in flower to roll out kluski at a kitchen table, and a Mr. Yuk sticker clinging to some old metal shelves in the corner."

Jody DiPerna | Pittsburgh Current

"Shaw mines his blue-collar upbringing and the sweat-soaked grind of kitchen work to create a sharply serrated book of poems. Scraping Away is both angry and artful in its depiction of class in America, a country that has always been squeamish about admitting that different social classes even exist much less that moving up the rungs is largely unachievable for much of the citizenry. . . . Shaw's poems hold no punches. They shine with blood and sweat, and in their honesty and love for the world they depict, the poems of Scraping Away burst from the page like 'something alive and escaped.'”

Kristofer Collins | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A sharply serrated book of poems. . . Scraping Away is both angry and artful in its depiction of class in America.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Like the fellow workers he describes, Shaw is a daring and capable poet, precariously balancing the weight of his lines, as if the page were 'the fiberglass oval on the level plain / of [his] palm,' his poems, the 'gritty sweet meat.'  Scraping Away is not just a collection for the working class, or even lovers of poetry. It is for anyone with a heartbeat. "

Appalachian Lit

Table of Contents

I | Argot | Curse | Jose at the Yum-Yum Café | The Price of Labor | Scraping Away | The World Feels Small after Shaking Hands with Bruno Sammartino | Party Girls | The Corporate Fifty | The Paper Signs | Demetrius’s Glasses | Cadre | Gratitude | II | Easy to Use as Modeling Clay | Last Offices | Reason to Be | The Place Setting | Bully | A Ginkgo Tree Teaches Me Something about Memory | The Toolbox | Sex-Ed | Napalm Summer | Slugger | Fat Lady | Thirteen Steps | What Dad Brought Home | Wrist Rocket | III | Impermanence | Iron City Sage | Initiation | Section 620 (June 30, 1995) | Bebop Alarm Clock | Two-Drink Minimum | “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” | Additional Parking for Big Pete’s Blues Wagon | “You Can’t Be on Heaven and on Earth at the Same Time” | Grasping | Caravan | Punk | The Communicants

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