Sad Men

What Writers Can Learn from the Great Depression

Posts tagged raven poetry circle

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John Cabbage, the Garbageman Poet

All weekend, I was reading John Cabbage, the garbageman poet. He made headlines during the Great Depression for writing verse while steering a garbage scow for the NYC Department of Sanitation. I found a copy of his 1938 collection, Time & Tides

He was a member of the Raven Poetry Circle, and wore a white-brimmed hat and smiled for the camera in their photos. In a poem, he once compared his work to  “He shampoos and manicures the City’s streets / For he is the Barber of the Streets.”

Below, I’ve copied down lines from “My Children,” a short poem about economic inequality and memory. He ends by writing a spooky few lines about us, his future readers…

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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.

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That’s a 23-second trip through the Occupy Wall Street library in New York City, a bustling collection of writers, readers and activists.

The OWS librarians just reported that a number of extra copies of their homemade Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology have gone missing. Yesterday, I talked about the OWS library and the Great Depression on New Hampshire Public Radio. Follow this link to listen.

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