Lazarus Exhibition/Dogfish Head Poetry Prize – Poetry News December 31st

Today’s poetry news looks at the Emma Lazarus exhibition in Manhattan and the winner of the 2019 Dogfish Head poetry prize.

Emma Lazarus – A New Manhattan Exhibit

A new exhibition dedicated to Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote the famous words that can be found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty has opened in Manhattan.

The exhibition is the work of the American Jewish Historical Society and can be found at the Centre for Jewish History. The exhibition includes a replica of the sitting room that the poet used in her Chelsea home. There is also a competition which encourages students visiting the exhibition to write their own poem for the Statue of Liberty.

Emma Lazarus was born in Manhattan in 1849. She lived there all her life and penned her famous poem “The New Colossus”. Written in 1883, the poem is in the form of a sonnet and was originally written for an auction which was looking to raise funds to help with the construction of the pedestal. The plaque that contains the words of the poem was added to the pedestal wall in 1903.

The welcoming sentiments of Lazarus’ poem were not popular with everyone at the time despite the vast number of immigrants that were arriving in America.

A fifth-generation American, Lazarus was born into a Sephardic Jewish family. She moved in wealthier circles but was the subject of gossip, mostly of an anti-Semitic nature. Lazarus spent much of her time advocating on behalf of Jewish-Russian refugees who arrived in America trying to escape persecution.

The social activism of the time inspired Lazarus; the 1882 Labour Day parade and also the words of Henry George, the economist who wrote about society and its inequalities and who was responsible for the reform movement.

Lazarus was well educated, and by the age of just 17 had already penned a collection of poems that spanned 200 pages.

The exhibition not only includes furniture similar to that Lazarus would have had in her home but also interactive copies of her work for visitors to the exhibition to read.

The student’s poetry competition will run until May when a winner will be announced. The exhibition will also have a second part which will open at a later date in 2020 and which will focus on the social influences of Union Square. Walking tours will also be offered to visitors.

It is hoped that the exhibition will help to show not only the life of Lazarus but also what life was like at the time.  Whilst “The New Colossus” is well known, people really know very little about the poet behind it. The exhibition hopes to change that.

2019 Dogfish Head Prize

The winner of the 17th Dogfish Head prize has been announced as the poet D.L Pearlman, who is from Norfolk. The winning collection of poetry was “Normal They Napalm the Cottonfields which was chosen from the 10 entries.

The collection was inspired by the poets frequent weekend road trips around Norfolk and Virginia.

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