Scholar Interviews

What is significant about the poem?

Transcription

My first response was this is graphamania, somebody who just writes stuff. And during a strike, almost anything can get published and I don’t really need to pay attention to it. Poetry is not something I usually work with. It struck me as kind of dry and not really representing something and I wasn’t originally going to even really look at it. I just Xeroxed anything I could find that I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else because this wasn’t in an archive; again this was in Solidarity office.

But then I began to try to think of it differently and imagined that worker writing these poems. I’m assuming he’s a worker, somebody who is in some way connected to the strike. And as I got a better sense of the strike by talking to people about it and hearing stories of it, hearing for example that the leader of that strike committed suicide a few years later. As everyone interpreted who told me about it, he had felt abandoned, he had put his life and his career on the line and had been sort of shunted to the side. His life had kind of fallen apart after the strike. Then I could go back and think more about the atmosphere around this poem and the atmosphere around this worker.

Thinking also about how a poem would be produced. This strike went on for 19 or 20 days, from the 16th of August to the third or fourth of September, getting smaller and smaller. At the beginning, most of the workers in the mine and then a dozen or 16 mines, at the largest, were on strike in the area. By the end, it’s just the July Manifesto Mine. It was just a hundred workers or so still on strike.

What do you do during a strike? Not very much. You sit. You talk. And you have time to write. And so you picture this worker sitting and composing these not particularly literary gems. They’re quite forced in their style; there are a lot of clichés in them and so on, lots of kind of empty rhetorical questions. It really brought me into the atmosphere of the strike as I came to understand it.

How to Cite

Padraic Kenney, interview, "What is significant about the poem?" Making the History of 1989, Item #594, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/594 (accessed October 31 2014, 10:19 am).