Whether it’s May Day, International Workers Day, or Labor Day, it’s always a good time to honor the work we do. Take a well-deserved break with these poems.
Chicago by Carl Sandburg
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100 by Martín Espada
I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman
Eden, Then and Now by Ruth Stone
Mother, Washing Dishes by Susan Meyers
Filling Station by Elizabeth Bishop
Virtuosi by Lisel Mueller
My God, It's Full of Stars by Tracy K. Smith
Looking for Work
Layoffs, unemployment, job lines, interviews, and back again. Philip Levine reflects on his days in an auto plant, trying to keep his job in order to support his brother, while these other poems show the frustrations and absurdities of the job search.
Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview by Gary Soto
After working sixty hours again for what reason by Bob Hicok
What Work Is by Philip Levine
[Keen and lovely man moved as in a dance] by Lorine Niedecker
Calling Him Back from Layoff by Bob Hicok
In Order To by Kenneth Patchen
The work of many goes unnoticed, unappreciated, and misunderstood. Rhina Espaillat recalls her grandmother’s work ethic, and Robert Pinsky honors those who died in the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.
“Find Work” by Rhina P. Espaillat
Shirt by Robert Pinsky
The Dignity of Ushers by Al Maginnes
Self-Employed by David Ignatow
from The Woman’s Labor. An Epistle to Mister Stephen Duck by Mary Collier
Coal Deliveryman by Ramón Cote Baraibar
from Saying Grace by Kevin Young
Poets at Work
These poems look at how a poet fits into the world of labor: Kenneth Koch avoiding his father’s business, and Niedecker took her grandfather’s advice about work in her own direction. And Robert Frost revels in the work that unites him with nature.
To My Father’s Business by Kenneth Koch
Poet’s Work by Lorine Niedecker
Mowing by Robert Frost
Failures in Infinitives by Bernadette Mayer
The Halls by Mark Halliday