September 18, 2014

Poetry Friday--"Almost"

This may be the last poem in my Sketchbook Project series. I hope I have captured the voices of those children who, in the first two decades of the 20th century, were forced by circumstance to work at an age when they should have been playing or attending school.

We take too much for granted nowadays, including child labor and workplace safety laws. Not to get political, but, there are some people who think the government should be limited in its oversight of business and labor. If a country without governmental regulation were to evolve, how long do you think it would take before children were back at work in the factories, fields, tenements, or on the street? (In case anyone has forgotten, in the debates leading up to the 2012 presidential election, there was one candidate who thought children should/could replace janitors in schools.)

Caption: A "Reader" in cigar factory, Tampa, Fla. He reads books and newspapers at top of his voice all day long. This is all the education many of these workers receive. He is paid by them and they select what he shall read. Location: Tampa, Florida. Date: January 1909. Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine, courtesy Library of Congress.
Almost

We have a man
here who reads
to us all day long.

It's almost like being
in school, or maybe
like being in a show.

It's mostly the news:
murder, shipwrecks,
investigations, fraud,

disappearances, crop
failure, bankruptcy,
scandals, disaster,

train wrecks, jail
breaks, disease...
It's almost like being

out in the real world
except sometimes
here we get poetry.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

I have been using my imagination to fill in the stories untold by Hine's photographs, there's a man in Massachusetts who has been piecing together the stories in another way. Click here for a short video.

The Poem Farm is where you should head for this week's Round-Up.

16 comments:

  1. It has been a wonderful series, Diane. Thank you for sharing these photos and your responses to them. It's fascinating that the workers paid to have someone read to them. I can imagine them listening to a new story about a shipwreck.

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    1. Or, maybe pirates! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

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  2. Well done, as usual, and you prompted a memory of my time living in Tampa!

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  3. Wow, Diane, what a fascinating piece of history. I wonder which books they chose for him to read?

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  4. This is a fabulous series...I love what you done here, and you've brought our imaginations with you. Amazing video too. I want more. Thank you, Diane. And oh, the last stanza of this...just gosh wow.

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    1. Thanks, Amy. There may be more down the line...

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  5. I've really been enjoying this series, Diane. What a bizarre idea to have a reader in the workplace. I would hope they selected some poetry books for him to read.

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    1. 100 years ago, most daily newspapers published poetry, so I'm sure they got their share.

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  6. Amazing series, Diane! I've enjoyed each installment - the way you've given voice to this part of our history. Brava! = )

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  7. I've loved each one, and the project itself too, Diane. I've been watching the PBS series about the Roosevelts, and there was a big part about the help that Teddy accomplished about labor, then last night, FDR finished the final laws about labor & age, salary, hour limits. I think some still sneak, especially those with power over others. This particular idea of a "reader" is new to me-amazing how people think up things that they believe is "enough"! Thanks!

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    1. I had never heard of a reader until I came across this photo. It was a good idea, though, and surely made the time go by a little quicker.

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  8. Excellent! So this may be your last one, huh? Well I'll miss them but then I do know where to find them! I have so enjoyed this project!

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    1. They'll still be here, unless Google decides it doesn't want to support Blogger any more! I probably should have been printing off the posts! Ah, well...

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