These everyman's poems about teaching high school, working night shifts and part time jobs, delivering pizza, etc., are a wonder and a delight. Kass captures the small moments in the broad swath of life's fullness, but doesn't get bogged down by them. This is no oppressive working class tale-telling, it's a celebration of all the little things that make up complicated life.
Picked by Rebecca in Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Teacher/Pizza Guy is a collection of autobiographical poems from the 2016-17 school year in which Jeff Kass worked as a full-time English teacher and a part-time director for a literary arts organization and still had to supplement his income by delivering pizzas a few nights a week. In the collection, Kass is unapologetically political without distracting from the poems themselves but rather adds layers and nuances to the fight for the middle class and for educators as a profession.
The timing of this book is beyond relevant. As a public high school teacher in America, Kass's situation is not uncommon. In September 2018, Time published an article detailing how many public school teachers across the country and in a variety of environments work multiple jobs to help make ends meet. Teacher/Pizza Guy chronicles Kass's experience of teaching, directing, feeding people, and treading the delicate balance of holding himself accountable to his wife and kids, his students, his customers, and his own mental and physical health while working three jobs in contemporary America. The journey of that year was draining, at times daunting, at times satisfying, but always surprising. Many of the ideas for these poems were initially scribbled onto the backs of pizza receipts or scratched out during precious free moments amidst the chaos of the school day. A driving force behind the book is Philip Levine's poem "What Work Is," which Kass believes attempts to examine not only the dignity and complexity of what we think physical, tangible work is but also the exhausting, albeit sometimes fulfilling nature of emotional work.
Teacher/Pizza Guy is a funny and relatable collection for readers, thinkers, educators, and pizza lovers everywhere.
About the Author
Jeff Kass teaches tenth-grade English and creative writing at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the founder of the Literary Arts Program at Ann Arbor's teen center, The Neutral Zone, where he was program director for twenty years. He is also the author of the award-winning short story collection Knuckleheads, the poetry collection My Beautiful Hook-Nosed Beauty Queen Strut Wave, and the thriller Takedown. He lives in Ann Arbor with the author Karen Smyte and their children, Sam and Julius.