Through a dizzing array of references to subjects ranging from engineering to poetry, on-the-job experiences in academia and industry, conflicts between working-class and intellectual labor, the privatization of universities, and the contradictions of the modern environment, Joe Amato's "Industrial Poetics" mounts a boisterous call for poetry communities to be less invested in artistic self-absorption and more concerned about social responsibility. As Amato focuses on the challenges faced by American poets in creating a poetry that speaks to a public engineered into complacency by those industrial technologies, practices, and patterns of thought that we cannot seem to do without, he brings readers face to face with the conflicting realities of U.S. intellectual, academic, and poetic culture. Formally adventurous and rhetorically lively, "Industrial Poetics" is best compared with the intellectually exploratory, speculative, risky, polemical work of other contemporary poet-critics, including Kathleen Fraser, Joan Retallack, Bruce Andrews, Susan Howe, and Allen Grossman.
Amato uses an exhilarating range of structural and rhetorical strategies: conventionally developed argument, abruptly juxtaposed aphorisms, personal narrative, manifesto-like polemic, and documentary reportage. With a critic's sharply analytical mind, a poet's verve, and a working-class intellectual's sense of social justice, Amato addresses the many nonliterary institutions and environments in which poetry is inextricably embedded. By connecting poetry to industry in a lively demonstration against the platitudes and habitudes of the twentieth century, Amato argues for a re-energized and socially forceful poetics - an industrial poetics, rough edges and all. Jed Rasula writes, "I can't say I pay much attention to talk radio, but this is what I imagine it might be like if the deejay were really smart, enviably well read, yet somehow retained the snarling moxie of the AM format."