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December 12: Lola Ridge and “The Ghetto”

December 12, 2014

Lola+RidgeIrish-American anarchist poet Lola Ridge, whose early work included a lengthy poem about Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side, “The Ghetto,” was born Rose Emily Ridge in Dublin on this date in 1873. She emigrated first to New Zealand, where she awakened politically, and then to San Francisco in 1907 before settling in Greenwich VIllage in 1908. Ridge, who was not Jewish, earned her living as a model and factory worker while writing and involving herself in radical causes. “The Ghetto” was published in the New Republic in 1918 and then in her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, which was a critical success. Over the course of three decades she was published regularly in Poetry, Saturday Review, and other leading magazines of the day, and also published four more books of poetry. Ridge received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America in ’34 and ’35. Tuberculosis took her life at 66 in 1941. To read “The Ghetto,” click here.

“Young women pass in groups,

Converging to the forums and meeting halls,

Surging indomitable, slow

Through the gross underbrush of heat.

Their heads are uncovered to the stars,

And they call to the young men and to one another

Only their eyes are ancient and alone...” —Lola Ridge, “The Ghetto”