William Trent Pancoast and his Triptych for the Working Class

 – A Review by Nick Gardner

When reading about work, and by work I mean hard manual labor, and by this I mean hacking in the coal mines, servicing cars, running a factory press, and by this I mean coming home dirty, sore, and growing older only to find that the work has left lasting damage, a permanent stoop or carpal tunnel, arthritis — when reading about this type of work, and especially the near feudal system of industrial economics, I often cringe and scowl. But I can’t give up reading.

William Trent Pancoast tells real stories of real work. They are grungy, wild, and often violent. They are something anyone can relate to, with love and hate and characters who live and breath… but these stories can also be relentless. They sucker-punch you, knock you to the ground, and kick you till you can’t feel the kicks anymore, till the pain is finally replaced by outrage.

I decided to read William Trent Pancoast’s oeuvre in a week. I had read Wildcat before and much of his short fiction so I knew they would be quick reads, all but Crashing taking only a 4-5 hour stint. I moved through the books in the order that Pancoast presented them to me over the last couple years: Wildcat, Crashing, and most recently, The Road To Matewan. I wanted to see if there was something deeper that tied these varied stories together. What emerged was a new understanding of this subject of work.wildcat

First, I reread Wildcat, a story featuring a General Motors stamping plant as its protagonist. It is set in fictional Cranston, Ohio and proceeds as a series of short biographies and vignettes about the characters that work at the plant. As the reader learns the history of the factory through the lives of the workers, through PTSD, amputations, alcoholism, and the general alienation and disassociation of industrialization, there is also a sense of the factory as a whole, the people being only members of the factory body. If the machines are muscle, the laborers are the vital organs, performing specific functions to urge the factory on. The union serves as ligaments holding the workers together with the management, and the building houses them all. Through this series of symbiotic beings, the factory struggles, overworked by its general managers, CEOs, and the capitalistic structure in general to always produce more, to win a race with no definite finish line. Finally the workers give up and the factory topples. In GM’s death throes, the owners survive, jeering at an empty cement slab. Continue reading

​William Trent Pancoast: an excerpt from the novel The Road to Matewan

A note from the editor:   William Trent Pancoast will give a reading from his newly published novel The Road to Matewan at Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio on Friday, April 7th, 6-8pm. The novel can be purchased at Main Street Books.


 

In late May 1920, the news spread quickly of the gun battle in Matewan in which Sid Hatfield and several other men had taken on the Baldwin-Felts detectives. It was a victory for the miners. Hatfield was the police chief of Matewan. The Baldwin-Felts men were from a Bluefield detective agency that supplied some of the strike-breakers and guns-for-hire for the coalfields. The detectives had just finished evicting a group of miners from their camp homes, a task that Hatfield refused to undertake. Few men could fight the operators on their own terms. Fewer still could stand up to Sid Hatfield, who shot coins out of the air with his forty-five. How it all started remained a mystery, but seven of the feared Baldwin-Felts men were dead, five with bullet holes in their foreheads, and the Matewan Massacre became a story to be told and retold in the tent colonies that sprang up in the mountains.

Richard was on the first train through after the battle. “Folks were quiet but you could see their pride that someone had finally stood up to the Baldwin-Felts men,” he told Thomas during a June visit after he was laid off from the railroad. “I’ve never seen a war up close, but that’s what this is.”

The tent colonies housed the striking miners, who had, with the help and money of the United Mine Workers, in April struck all of the southern coalfields to settle their grievances once and for all. It made no sense to the southern West Virginia coal miners that they were the only ones in the country not to have the benefits that the union could bring them; they were finished living under the feudal system dictated by the companies. Southern West Virginia had become a battlefield. Continue reading

Jackboots and Sinful Fishes

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Jackboots and Sinful Fishes: The Prophecies of Mahler’s Resurrection.

I love all music, but I’m a classical music nut. I’m also a bit like a vegan mentioning eating habits: if the subject comes up, people soon find my favorite composer is Gustav Mahler. I first heard his music when I was twelve and exploring the classics via a stack of old vinyl records my mom picked up for me at Goodwill.

I was hooked on the classics by my elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Lumadue, who one day played Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 in our weekly class. The dark rich colors, pulsing rhythms, and delicious tang of that music perked up my attention so much, I came in after class and asked to listen to it again. Before long, I was exploring her record collection instead of going out to recess, looking up the composers of this strange and wonderful music in encyclopedias. This wildly varying, unpredictable art form immediately struck me as being more like life, more like nature than anything playing on the radio I was forced to endure on the school bus every day. I found a better world. And I found who I was with that music. Many things create a person, but I could not have been the person I am without classical music.

But the big bomb didn’t drop until I was working my way through my stack of records and found a piece of music by some guy I’d never heard of. Gustav Mahler, born 1860, died 1911. It was an excerpt from his Symphony No. 1 on a sampler of recordings by the great German conductor Bruno Walter. I loved the record’s other contents, Beethoven, Brahms, Johann Strauss and such, but who was this Mahler guy? Mrs. Lumadue never mentioned him. Continue reading

We Stand With Standing Rock

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In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating their concern that a pipeline slated to be built encroached upon ancestral lands.


It’s a five dollar donation to get in the doors of the Standing Rock Solidarity Benefit show, to be enveloped in the warmth, the glow, the murmur of conversations cut frequently by loud laughter. It looks like someone’s family reunion with folding chairs and cheap plastic table cloths, a buffet set-up with six donated Two Cousin’s Gut Buster pizzas and cheap booze. As the place slowly fills with people, the room becomes a beacon in the cold night, a bright light in a row of dim buildings, a convention of friends new and old, setting the stage for solidarity.


September 4th, Dakota Access begins clearing ground for the pipeline, bulldozing over sacred sites and burials. Protesters are attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed.


It took just under two weeks for Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Mark Sebastian Jordan, Kathy Fetzer-Goodwin to bring this event into the public eye, being touted in the local papers and drawing over a hundred contributors and participants. It even received threats, though none came to fruition. The K.E. McCarthy building was donated as a space for the show and by door time, all money spent on food, drink, and entrance would be sent to the Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Mark Jordan opens the show as MC and performer and along with Jason Kauffman, Lucas Hargis, and Nate Weiland presents a spoken word piece (Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert). He repeats the question: “who speaks?” over the murmur of the settling audience and we listen, and finally erupt into applause on his final call-to-arms, that “We speak!”

This becomes the theme of the show, the different voices no longer silenced, but calling for an end to injustice. This is a shout for self-expression and for claiming a space in the land.

Continue reading

Purposing in the Heart of the Borderland

I was shaken today when I went up to the northern Ohio town of L_____ to do some research for a history talk I have coming up next month. So often people complain about Mansfield, but today I saw a town tottering on its last legs. Imagine the worst blocks in Mansfield going on for entire neighborhoods, to the vanishing point. Street after street of abandoned, falling-down houses, mold-filled forgotten churches, a homeless shelter shutting down because the building is eroding around them.

It’s stark out there, my friends.

What we have already done down here to bring life to this little town on the hill is vibrant and nothing short of astonishing. I don’t know if it is enough to cut through the rising red-hatted dark tide, I don’t know if it can spark the dead eyes like those I saw strewn around L_____ today, but I want to try. I want to do something. Maybe I’m not much more than some joker that spews pretty words. Or maybe it is more. Maybe I do things & we all do things with words and images and sound that heal wounded people. It’s what I have to give, and this blog is another way to give it. I’m grateful for the chance to make somebody’s—anybody’s— life a little less dark.

Mark Sebastian Jordan

December 12, 2016

“Swimming the Dam”, a letter from Llalan Fowler inspired by sovroncourt’s song of that title

This feature is a letter written by Llalan Fowler that was inspired by “Swimming the Dam, track 5 on the Waves and Wheels album. Please read Llalan’s ekphrastic piece and then listen to the song that inspired it. Enjoy!

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My old friend,

How are you? I’m hanging in there–thanks for your last letter. This time of year is always hard for me. It’s that “certain slant of light.” I know you know that. Remember the day we drove to the lake? That was around now — early fall. I wrote a poem about it the next day. This was back when I wrote poems. The leaves were turning and some were dropping already. One line described a yellow tree across the lake from us that unravelled like a sweater, its gold leaves spiralling down onto the motionless lake. The water was so still it reflected the colorful hills back at us. In my memory we sat on a pale tablecloth, though I can’t imagine either of us having one back then. You carried a picnic in plastic grocery bags up the levee to where it flattened out. You brought hummus and chips and little sealed sandwich baggies with vegetables you had cut up. I didn’t eat much. I was busy pretending I didn’t notice you reaching for my knee or my hand, and you were busy pretending not to notice me scooting away from you, bunching up the tablecloth around my folded legs until I was wedged in one corner, almost in the grass. The grass was still bright green even though the leaves were turning, the way it is in southern Ohio when school starts. So green I thought of rolling away down the grassy hill. Bugs hopped around my fingers and I wanted to cry. I was embarrassed to be in my socks with you. We weren’t in the poem, just the tree and the water, but the poem is long gone and here we are. Thank you for the pictures. Your daughter is beautiful. I wonder what you will tell her about me. Tell her about the sky that day, that ecstatic blue and the bright alive smell of dirt and water and leaves. Tell her about the yellow tree.

Love,
Llalan

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“Thresholds” by James Lee Van Horn

Tyler Durden told me once, after we had fought, that death doesn’t punch a clock, so it’s its own boss. I say, my biological father died at 31 when I was nine— I barely cried. All the paradigms vying for time in my mind made it hard to unwind. Got angry inside until I watched Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. The catharsis arrived at 18, manifest in the guise of Ray Liotta’s bad guy. All the hate I had kept stored in muscle memory released during that first mid-life crisis. Escaped edifices of stone; now I roam with felines behind a pale horse, utilizing John the Baptist’s skull as a vessel to quench my thirst and proclaim my will. Technology’s a social malaise. I know it puts you ill at ease, but I’ve traveled through many centuries and galaxies. Here, in reincarnated form, I’ve been brought to my knees by emotional pain. No, I don’t know you and I don’t love you. How can I love someone else when I hardly love myself? So I forced omni-presence on both rich and poor. What a drag, to be clad in a destiny softly cloaking the graveyard black. Walk the Queen of Hell’s path of tantric sex, as ultra-terrestrials laugh at mankind’s feeble attempts to reify the quantifiable array that history’s weight displays; it is a tangible trait.

Somewhere a UFO I created flies.
Somewhere a UFO I created dies.

Putrefying a phallic death in crone’s eyes, weeping lilac soul of mauve tones frescoed on grotto walls, shimmering under a lunar grove of Spanish moss and silvery decay. By the words that I save, I can gauge my fate; manipulate ontology into more than 4 planes.

Twist the top, pop a squat and let’s talk. Unpack the third mind, see its fats fluids and salts. Add an electrical charge and watch the Ego become the lies it constructs.

A knot in my chest, a burning of skin, in the end no one wins; just more grist for the mill. Diminished dreams and aging piano loops affect a limp like Keyser Soze. A small part to play, limping away… No kids. No keys, just a bar stool called home with a gold plaque; engraving on it says, he sat here a lot. Sat here a lot and let his life go to pot.

A knot in my chest, burning skin, my voice vibrates a nourishing sphere around an offal intent of blood bone and flesh. Viking quests to know thy self. Let the bland taste my sword, which is my word and the bond to never status seek. Become who you are there are no guarantees. Drinking mead with impassioned souls like me, passing thru life only to expire in funeral pyres of dissent against corrupt keepers of fours; encouraging us not to explore exalted states beyond corporate memes hemming us in to positions low on the food chain. Yet as a species we possess free will wasted in the swill of dollar bills. The advice of this song: sometimes you gotta say fuck the sun, leave the solar phallus at home and hang out with gnomes eating beets. Kiss your spouse on the cheek, rub their feet. Keyboards fly to be free of the beat, unchained from the drums they become melody.

Bare bones, the anima returns the prodigal son. The princess takes the throne. Checkmate pretty hate machine, find comfort in this critique. Show adult and feminine mystique in the personal Qabalah that you speak.

© James Lee Van Horn 2013

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Teenwolf

Born in the thresholds of dial-up and hypertext James Lee Van Horn, aka Teenwolf, stalks the Rust Belt as a trickster and a pundit’s worst nightmare. Nourished on the teats of Maybe logic and ontological graffiti he searches for the silver bullet that will signal his PERICHORESIS.