Teacher/Pizza Guy

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Product Details

Wayne State University Press
Publish Date
5.8 X 0.4 X 8.8 inches | 0.35 pounds
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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


An extremely readable, often funny, sometimes serious look at one man's perspective on the all-too-common, multifaceted lives of teachers today.--Valerie Wieland"Split Rock Review" (03/13/2020)
After twenty-plus years of teaching, I can say that these poems capture more of a teacher's life than any news story, assigned manual, or documentary account ever could. To read them is to experience the inspiring, infuriating, hilarious, tedious, and quietly glorious lives lived by one teacher residing in the twenty-first century as a fully realized and flawed human being. They will speak to your heart and mind regardless of which side of the big desk you've ever been on.-- (04/08/2019)
I never really cared for poetry, but I truly loved Kass's work. He speaks to all of our insecurities and vulnerabilities, giving a voice to what we want to say but rarely do. Yes, teachers are struggling to get by financially, and it's a shame that education is not being made a higher priority in our society. Thank you, Jeff, for opening the door to this conversation in a creative and enriching way.-- (04/08/2019)
Kass's hip-hop poetic style illuminates the gritty yet inspiring realities of teaching today's youth, while at the same time working a second job to make ends meet. Teacher/Pizza Guy will resonate with those who have ever strived to make a difference, no matter with kids by day, pizzas at night, or both. Kass is a distinctive poet with insight and compassion who ultimately 'chooses bliss.'-- (04/08/2019)
Here we have poems of labor, wages, busted knees, and the miracles of bodies at all. Forged out of economic precarity and the ways that such uncertainty shapes a life (its breaths, hours, delights, resistance), Kass's poems strain toward what is broken, depleted, or overlooked, and find song there. These are not songs of repair, but songs that praise and document some of the effortful lasting, and attempts to last, of Kass's most beloved subjects. In this way these poems carry the intimacy and goodbye of an elegy, the attentiveness of the ode, and the urgency of the protest cry.-- (04/08/2019)
What a beautiful and moving and funny and un-heroic and angry and tender and honest book of poems about labor, aging, love, and, as Kass says, finding 'meaning in every ice patch on the sidewalk.' This book's heart is enormous. I love it.-- (04/08/2019)
Jeff Kass affirms the dignity and heartbreak of the working person with funny and deeply human turns and terms. A master storyteller, Kass reminds us in Teacher/Pizza Guy of the elasticity and liminality we negotiate in our relationships between teacher and student, working and working poor, life and death. Kass is in the middle of the country, a humble Hercules, trying to pull it all together with grace, beauty, and a touching humility. He will make you cry and laugh and remember to hold your head high and hope.-- (04/08/2019)
[The poem] "Garbage Day" . . . made me feel the frustration and joy depicted.-- (05/06/2019)
Like so many others in America's working class, poet and teacher Kass had to take on a second job mid-career to help make ends meet. Isn't it strange, he states bluntly "attempting something new at fifty," the "new" in this case is delivering pizzas until 2 a.m. on a weekday. Later in the collection Kass mentions, in passing, that he'll return home to try to get a little bit of sleep, only to awake in time to do it all over again. These poems ring with compassion and empathy, touching on the all-too-human foibles Kass encounters each day and night in classrooms and during his pizza deliveries, from college professors who tip $5 on a $97 tab to an elegiac poem, "Young man, take your headphones out", about a student who bravely endures more pain than someone his age should have to. As John Lennon once sang, "a working class hero is something to be." This collection is the work of a hero and a first-rate poet.-- (09/13/2019)
Within the drudgery of going from job to job, Kass is not all work; he observes and shows parallels between his jobs and life, recognizing and taking ownership of those moments rather than letting work consume him, almost as if he is both living his life and watching it from the outside. Kass finds meaning in those fleeting moments of entering and exiting customers' lives to bring them pizza and also seeks respect as he makes ends meet.-- (09/03/2019)