Friday, April 20, 2012

Ludlow: a Massacre, a Verse-Novel

Almost a century ago, on April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent colony of 1,200 coal miners, and their families, who were on strike. As a result, there were between 19 and 25 deaths--including 13 women and children. The Ludlow Massacre, as this moment in history came to to be known, has been described by Historian Howard Zinn as "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history."

In 2007, Red Hen Press published a verse-novel called Ludlow, (think of it as a book-length poem), by the Poet David Mason (who years later was later named the Poet Laureate of Colorado). The author's note describes the poem as "a work of fiction, but certain characters and events have their origins set in historical fact..."

In 2010, when a 2nd edition of the book was released, the author was featured on the PBS News Hour where he talked about his book. He said, "To use all this language, all this history, all this knowledge about versification and put it all together in what I hope is a very compelling story about a very serious moment in American history that's still with us, because we still are a nation of immigrants. We still are a nation that struggles with issues of corporate power, corporate greed, the rights of individual people."

Below is a short excerpt that describes working-life in the mines:
The mines made windows too, when timbermen
or diggers deep inside the earth cut through
to gas and lanterns set it off, or when
the pillared chambers fell. You heard a slump
within, and some poor digger ran out choking
there was thirty boys still trapped in the seam.
And some days all you'd see was bodies carted
down the hill and bosses counting heads.

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