By Michael Demson
Masks of Anarchy tells the extreme tale of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque
of Anarchy,” from its perception in Italy and suppression in England to the instant it grew to become a
catalyst for protest between ny urban employees a century later.
Shelley penned the poem in 1819, after listening to of the Peterloo bloodbath, the place British cavalry
charged peaceable political demonstrators close to Manchester. His phrases may later motivate figures
as wide-ranging as Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi—and additionally Pauline Newman, the
girl the recent York instances known as the “New Joan of Arc” in 1907. Newman used to be a Jewish immigrant who labored within the Triangle Shirtwaist manufacturing facility, and got here to be a number one organizer—and
the 1st girl organizer—of one in all America’s strongest unions, the overseas Ladies’
Garment staff’ Union. As she marched with tens, occasionally thousands of New
Yorkers within the streets, Shelley’s poem by no means ceased to motivate her.
“Shake your chains to earth like dew,” it implores. “Ye are many—they are few.”
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Extra resources for Masks Of Anarchy: The History Of A Radical Poem, From Percy Shelley To The Triangle Factory Fire
Not only had the parameters of style and narrative been narrow, but outside of the daily press, in comic books, trends like war, horror, and love-interest comics tended to come and go in a rush, along with the bulk of the smaller publishers themselves. Rare were the individualistic talents with the time and the encouragement to grow to their full potential. Rarer still were those artists who could make a living on such experimental efforts. Still, even the earliest comics of the 1890s offered hints that they might be at last understood and appreciated a century and more later.
Poetry is our most fundamental weapon against alienation, isolation, automation, apathy, and despair. To remain vital, however, poetry must continually change in form. Shelley considers historians, scientists, and philosophers to be poets (I would add satirists, journalists, linguists, and graphic novelists); he uses the word poet very broadly and inclusively, and I think Newman understood this implicitly. To speak plainly and candidly about what is most relevant to us, to our families, and to our communities—to draw out the connections for others to see—is to speak poetically.
From my time in Binghamton, I want to thank Susie Williams, a boss like no other and a teacher in the fullest sense of the term, and Bina Paramasivaiah, the Director of Verizon’s Next Step Program. A. W. students at Broome Community College, who taught me so much more about labor history and union life than I taught them about academic prose and effective writing, and my graduate students at Sam Houston State University who were willing to research and discuss radical politics of the Romantic era for weeks on end.