Selected Poems of Xu Lizhi (1990-2014)
Xu Lizhi (translated by Friends of Nao), 2018
Xu Lizhi’s poems emerged amid the media coverage of workers at Chinese tech factories jumping to their deaths—a rash of tragedies whose cause was crystallized in the behemoth company Foxconn’s crass solution of erecting nets. Xu’s poetry gives a voice to workers so exhausted and dehumanized by the conditions of their labor and employment that, rather than continue, they chose to take their own lives. The poems show exhaustion, disappointment, and isolation; but instead of focusing solely on these internal struggles, they point a critical eye at the culture responsible. Xu’s voice is one that shows the struggle of shifting between a sense of disillusionment and one of hope.
Xu Lizhi grew up outside of Jieyang, Guangdong, the third son of farm workers. Xu moved to Shenzhen in 2011, in search of job opportunities unavailable in his rural village. To survive in the city he took work on the assembly line at Foxconn, but repeatedly attempted to find a job at a library or the Central Book Mall to follow his passion. During this time he published dozens of poems in the internal company newspaper, Foxconn People. Xu attempted to leave the factory, quitting his job and moving to to Suzhou, Jiangsu in February, 2014. After a few months, however, Xu returned to Shenzhen and on September 29, 2014 returned to work at Foxconn. The next day he took his own life by jumping from his factory dorm window.
Xu’s poems and his life at the factory have a particular resonance for those of us in Wisconsin. The unprecedented amount of corporate welfare and looming promise of environmental devastation that accompany Scott Walker’s deal with Foxconn are well-documented; as are residents’ fears of potential labor exploitation. Its all-too-easy to allow the reality of workers’ lives to be forgotten when reading about new developments and projected employment rates on devices made by their hands, but Xu’s poems need to stand as a reminder of humanity refusing to be erased by the assembly line.
This chapbook was printed and hand-bound in Milwaukee, WI in an edition of 100. For every 10 copies sold we will send a copy to Scott Walker in hopes that he too will read them.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the IWW General Defense Committee.
Poems translated by Friends of Nao and published with their permission. We are grateful for their help in making this book possible.
Let Them Eat Cake
Ginger Lukas, 2018
In this essay, Ginger Lukas chronicles her time working as a cake decorator at the bakery counter of a chain grocery store after realizing the ceramics career she was
on track for just wasn’t working out. Lukas explores the precariousness of retail labor and how workers find ways to maintain their humanity and creativity in a dehumanizing environment.
Complete with photographs of subversive cakes made on the job, the chapbook is printed on recycled papers, hand-folded and bound, with a cover printed by a robot arm.
Ginger Lukas is an artist living and working between Wisconsin and various other places. She received a BFA from MICA and an MFA in ceramics from University of Wisconsin. She was an artist in residence at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA from 2011-2012 and is currently an artist in residence through the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association in Springfield, IL.
This is the first in the Adjunct Press 2018 Retail Labor Series.