Friday, August 30, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: In Celebration of Labor Day

Thanks to Tara at A Teaching Life for hosting Poetry Friday today!

Life has been a whirlwind lately—with school starting and all of the related hoopla, I was tempted to title this post “The Back-to-School Boogie” (as opposed to "The Summer Slide" post from June 18). ☺ My boys are back in school, homework and other after-school activities are gearing up, and the weather turned cooler for exactly two days but then (unfortunately) reverted to hot, sticky summer again. The cool weather was nice while it lasted and really made me look forward to fall!

Every year, just as everyone at our house starts to ease into “school mode” again, along comes Labor Day weekend, a welcome flashback to summer’s fun and a quick breather before the school/scouts/soccer/piano merry-go-round starts whirling again. So in honor of this fun weekend, I have some poems to share.

But first, here's a quick review of the history of Labor Day. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's website:
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Labor Day was first observed in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, and was organized by the Central Labor Union. By 1894, Congress had passed an act declaring the first Monday in September a national holiday. Since then, Americans have celebrated the holiday every year with picnics, parades, and speeches in honor of our country’s dedicated laborers. As a kid, all I really understood about Labor Day was that we had a 3-day weekend right after school started. This year, I will make sure that my boys have an appreciation for the history of this special holiday, beginning by making them read this blog post. (Hi, Will and Ben!)     
An early Labor Day poster, circa 1923
Although Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” was originally published in 1860*, I think it captures the spirit of Labor Day perfectly, celebrating the early tradespeople who helped shape this country into what it is today:
 
I HEAR AMERICA SINGING 
by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
 
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

*“I Hear America Singing” was published in the 1860 version of Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS, and appeared in the section entitled “Chanting Democratic.”
While perusing poetry for this post, I also came across this anonymous poem about “stick-to-it-ativeness" that I love. Its words of wisdom can be applied toward any endeavor—even writing— and I plan to print it out for future reference:

ALWAYS FINISH
Author Unknown
If a task is once begun,
Never leave it till it's done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.
Have a great Labor Day weekend, and Happy Writing!

20 comments:

  1. What a great choice for Labor Day weekend, Becky. I have one back in school and one going back Monday. I'm actually looking to Labor Day as the beginning of my normal labor -- writing in a quiet house!

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    1. I am looking forward to my quiet writing time resuming soon, as well. I hope you have a peaceful, productive week! = )

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  2. Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass will always hold a special meaning in my heart. I agree with Laura above, this is a great choice for Labor Day weekend.

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  3. Back in the days of working folks putting in six days a week, a picnic-Monday meant a lot more. For those with kids at school, it still means the end of summer.
    Go out and have a relaxing last hoorah...

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    1. Yes! I am sure a day off meant a lot more in early Labor Day celebrations!

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  4. wonderful choices for Labor Day, Becky. I love me some Walt Whitman. Need to reread Leaves of Grass!

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    1. I love Whitman and always have--he is so down-to-earth and real, but beautifully poetic at the same time. A great combination!

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  5. Very much looking forward to my three day weekend. Starting it off tomorrow w/a movie and some girl time, woo-hoo! Hope you guys have a great weekend b4 back to the grind again!

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    1. Thanks Leandra! We had a nice weekend--I hope you did, too! It is back to work tomorrow! = )

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  6. Thanks for the refresher on the history of Labor Day. No one better than Walt to sing the song of the worker in America! What will I be doing on Labor Day? Laboring. Grading papers -- beginning of the year assessments. Sigh.

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    1. Mary Lee, I really hope you had at least a bit of a break today! Grading papers is definitely labor--especially beginning of the year assessments. I remember those well!

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  7. "Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else." I like that. Where I live we have Labor Day in May and not in September, but hope you have a good day!

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  8. Thanks for the reminder of what this holiday is all about, Becky. Great Labor Day poem finds!

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    1. I was excited to find both of these--Whitman never lets me down, though! = )

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  9. Two very fitting poems for the occasion. Thanks, Becky.

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  10. I love the Always Finish poem. Words to live by.

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  11. Happy Labour Day! Like Kelly, I love that 'Always Finish' poem. Do it well or not at all, indeed.

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