Labor Day Poems
For the United States’ Labor Day, we bring you a variety of poems, podcasts, and articles—some meditate on work, while others evoke restful, wistful end-of-summer feelings.
Labor Day was founded to give workers and their families a festival day: in this spirit, Muriel Rukeyser, Philip Levine, and Langston Hughes explore laborers’ family bonds and duties. For Robert Service, work is a burden; for Rhina P. Espaillat, it’s a salve for grief. Workplaces real and imaginary are explored in Robert Pinsky’s Triangle Factory, Charles Simic’s spookily empty warehouse, and Lorine Niedecker’s poet’s “condensery.”
Besides a festival day for workers, Labor Day has come to signal the end of summer. In that spirit, Carol Frost, Rachel Hadas, D.A. Powell, and Sara Teasdale conjure sights and smells of the dog days. Gwendolyn Brooks, Jane Kenyon, and James Schuyler are awash in the elegiac feelings of this time of year, while C.D. Wright’s speaker surrenders to relaxation, admitting: “this feels painfully beautiful / whether or not / it will change the world one drop.” Now carry your laptop out to your rocker and listen to the poets and the cicadas.