Inside the Money Machine

Minnie Bruce Pratt's latest book of poems is a passionate study of working people and an in-depth exploration of twenty-first-century capitalism. The various transactions of daily life—withdrawing money from the ATM, ordering in the lunch line, shopping at discount stores—are the jumping off points for many of the poems. Several other poems deal with the struggle to find and keep work. From, "The Dow Turns Red":

I'm wondering how long my job will last, a place to go every day, a shade, a shape we live inside even as giant invisible hands hold and squeeze, even as they fail and fall open. The Dow turns red in the wreck, but the color of our blood isn't money.

Inspired by the poetic prose of The Communist Manifesto, Pratt calls upon her own work history and that of her friends and neighbors to offer perspective on widespread social concerns and questions about class, expectation, and the American Dream. Recognizing the strength of the collective capitalist drive, Pratt remarks, "The problem is, the plan is not ours." One of the surprises of this engaging collection is how beauty emerges from hard work. Pratt's sense of beauty doesn't romanticize; she draws attention to the intricate mechanisms and vernacular of what might be overlooked as commonplace or mundane: the clipped language between diner-goers and short order cooks, the operation of machinery, the act of shoveling sand at a construction site. This collection is a gift of witness to the current historical moment.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.