America gave us Dirty Realism – tales from the underbelly of American life by writers like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. Now it's the turn of the poets. And Fred Voss is a writer who really gets his hands dirty: he doesn't just write about factory life, he lives it. For the past 30 years he has worked as a machinist in various factories in California, transmuting his experiences into three books of poetry published by Bloodaxe, Goodstone, Carnegie Hall with Tin Walls, and now Hammers and Hearts of the Gods.
The backdrop of much of his work is the Goodstone Aircraft Company, an oily amalgam of all the places where he has sweated it out on the shopfloor, where each man has to be a virtuoso able to temper brute force with hair’s-breadth delicacy. Voss’s Goodstone is a bastion of male America where bragging men dominate and cheat each other, boasting of their sexual conquests while trying to come to terms with sexual failure. In this tense, abrasive, rowdy atmosphere, suppressed violence, male bravado and sexual harassment go hand in hand. And when the wounded male lashes out, Voss is there.