Roslindale Neighbors: Immigrant factory workers focus of local poet’s book

May 19, 2008
By

SANDRA STOREY


Courtesy Photo
Poet Lisa Beatman’s latest book is “Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor.”

Roslindale poet Lisa Beatman is on a roll. Her book, “Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor,” published in January, was selected as an April/May “Pick of the Month” by “Small Press Review.” A growing list of schools and colleges have ordered it for classroom use, and she has been invited to read from the book in many venues in the Boston area.

In a recent interview, Beatman, who said she began writing poetry when she was in her mid-30s, talked about her latest birthday. “A wonderful way to turn 50 is to have a new book out,” she said.

The poems in “Manufacturing America” look at the world from the point of view of Beatman’s English as a Second Language students, all immigrants who worked at the Ames Safety Envelope Company in Somerville. Beatman, who taught there for four years, describes in her poetry the rhythms of the factory, shrouded by the insecurity that comes from tough lives and frequent layoffs. Beatman herself was eventually let go and her work outsourced.

Beatman’s house, where she has lived with electrician Rick Yoder since 2001, is surrounded by Mt. Hope Cemetery on three sides. Active in the Mt. Hope/Canterbury/Manning Neighborhood Association, she organized the group’s cleanup efforts on April 26.

“It’s a very active, diverse neighborhood,” she said. “Everyone contributes.” She said she likes living so close to nature with “easy access to everything the city has to offer.”

Prior to living in Roslindale, Beatman lived in JP for many years off and on in the 1980s and 1990s. She lived and worked as the assistant director of student life at Showa Boston in Moss Hill from 1993 to 2000 before going to work at Ames. “The poetry was cranking then,” she said. “It was a very fertile time for me.”

Beatman, who graduated from the College of Public and Community Service at UMass and has a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, now manages adult education programs at the Harriet Tubman House in the South End.

Reactions to “Manufacturing America” have been positive, and it has gotten good reviews and a feature article in the Boston Globe in March.

JP poet Susan Eisenberg, author of “Blind Spot,” wrote that the book “bears witness to the lyrical life of a factory and the individuals who inhabit it at the start-up of the 21st century.”

Poet Pamela Annas, who teaches courses in working class literature and is an associate dean at UMass Boston, called images in the poems “strong and accessible” and said the book is “highly recommended.”

Beatman said many people come up to her at readings to tell her about relatives who worked at factories in the past. “I love that,” she said, adding that, given the changing economic landscape, they all say no one in their family works in a factory now.

This is Beatman’s second book of poetry. Her first, published in 2002, was “Ladies’ Night at the Blue Hill Spa.” Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including “Pemmican” and “Rhino.” She has won several prizes for her work.

Beatman said she is working on two different collections now—one about animals, human and otherwise—and one with poems on the theme of “dislocation.”

Beatman will be reading from “Manufacturing America” several places in the next weeks and months. On May 20 she will read with a GED student at the South End Branch Library in celebration of Adult Education and Literacy Week. Her next local appearances will include Borders bookstore on School Street in Boston on June 12 and at Chapter and Verse at the Loring-Greenough House in JP next Nov. 3.

“Manufacturing America,” (61 pages) published by Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville, is available at Village Books in Roslindale and Jamaicaway Books and Gifts and Rhythm and Muse in JP. It can also be purchased online at Ibbetsonpress.com and soon from Amazon.com.

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