Sad Men

What Writers Can Learn from the Great Depression

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Occupy Wall Street & Self-Publishing

In New York City, the Occupy Wall Street library workers are building the first Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology. They published with a simple motto: “Poetry illuminates the soul of Occupy Wall Street.”

Last year, I wrote an essay for The Believer about the Raven Poetry Circle, a scrappy group of poets that sold poems in Washington Square Park during the Great Depression. Just like the OWS library, they self-published The Raven Anthology every month. In times of economic downturn, more writers should self publish community writing projects like these—they produce vital work during these tough times.

Here’s more about the Depression-era poets:

Francis Lambert McCrudden, a retired telephone worker, founded the Raven Poetry Circle in the early 1930s. He scowled in most group photos, and his poetry championed the value of hard work despite the ruined economy. He composed an epic poem called “The Nickel Snatcher,” an ode to his old telephone-company job—extracting millions of coins from pay phones. He once wrote:

The old saw has it, “Riches prove the man.”
But the real test is Poverty, by damn.
Am I aware the rhyme is false? I am.
But even so, it tell the truth, by damn.

Francis Lambert McCrudden, a retired telephone worker, founded the Raven Poetry Circle in the early 1930s … McCrudden took his club public in May 1933 with the eccentric idea to sell poetry in Washington Square Park. The Ravens tacked poems to a tall green wall beside a tennis court, peddling verse for pennies. The New York Times called it the world’s first “sidewalk Poetry Mart.” The fair opened following one of the worst winters in American history, as unemployment hit 25 percent.

Filed under Occupy Wall Street The Raven Anthology raven poetry circle occupywallstreet

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