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Proud New York

BY proud New York and its man-piled Matterhorns
The hard blue sky overhead and the west wind blowing,
Steam-plumes waving from sun-glittering pinnacles,
And deep streets shaking to the million-river:

Manhattan, zoned with ships, the cruel

Youngest of all the world's great towns,
Thy bodice bright with many a jewel,
Imperially crowned with crowns . . .

Who that has known thee but shall burn

In exile till he come again
To do thy bitter will, O stern
Moon of the tides of men!

John Reed (1887-1920)

John Reed burst across the culture and politics of the early 20th century like a rocket and his first-hand accounts of the Mexican and Russian revolutions became a foundation for modern journalism. You may have heard of him from the Academy Award winning movie Reds about the intellectual and passionate love affair between Reed and his wife Louise Bryant.

An American, Reed was a journalist and revolutionist born in Oregon and educated at Harvard University. His most widely read work is Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), an eye witness record of the Bolshevik Revolution. A close friend of Vladimir Lenin he watched the Bolshevik seize power at Petrograd (now Leningrad) in 1917. When he returned to the United States in August 1919, Reed, along with other members, was expelled from the National Socialist Convention. The faction then instituted the Communist Labor Party. Indicted for sedition, Reed fled to the Soviet Union where he died of typhus and was laid to rest (the only American to be buried in the Kremlin Wall) with other Bolshevik leaders at the Kremlin. He became a hero also in United States radical intellectual circles.

Although his poems enjoyed a small popularity during the decade of The Great War he won recognition for his articles on the Mexican Revolution. He was a journalist and radical who, among other things, rode with Pancho Villa and wrote about it in Insurgent Mexico.

His work sounds a lot like Carl Sandburg in it's solid blue collar American way and his Proud New York is at once bitter and sweet; a pleasure alloyed with pain considering the events of September 11th 2001. There is a presence of and examination of Reed's own thoughts and feelings in this poetical piece there is not any evidence of his political life. The disappearance of Reed's verse may be in part due to his viewpoints, but many a poet who published a book or two in 1914 was forgotten by 1920.


Blair, Bob:


Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

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