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About this poet

Born in Dublin on December 12, 1873, Lola Ridge grew up in mining towns in New Zealand and Australia. When she was thirty-four years old, she immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in New York City.

Ridge first received critical attention in 1918 when her long poem "The Ghetto" was published in The New Republic. Later that year, Ridge published her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems. The collection focused on the Lower East side tenements where Ridge was living, specifically the lives of Jewish immigrants. Her subsequent collections were Sun-Up and Other Poems (1920); Red Flag (1927), a book of political poetry; Firehead (1929) and Dance of Fire (1935).

Ridge was employed as a factory worker and was politically active, often writing about race, class, and gender issues, especially in her early work. She was an advocate for women's rights, gay rights, and the rights of immigrants. In 1927, she was arrested while protesting the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, anarchists and Italian immigrants who were convicted, through a controversial trial, of murdering two men during an armed robbery in Massachusetts.

The critical success of her early work led to editorships at avant-garde journals Other (where she worked alongside poets William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore), and Broom. Her awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and the Shelley Memorial Award in 1936. She died in New York at the age of sixty-seven on May 19, 1941.

Celia

Lola Ridge, 1873
Cherry, cherry, 
glowing on the hearth, 
bright red cherry...
When you try to pick up cherry 
Celia's shriek 
sticks in you like a pin.

                     : :

When God throws hailstones 
you cuddle in Celia's shawl 
and press your feet on her belly 
high up like a stool. 
When Celia makes umbrella of her hand. 
Rain falls through 
big pink spokes of her fingers. 
When wind blows Celia's gown up off her legs 
she runs under pillars of the bank—
great round pillars of the bank 
have on white stockings too.

                     : :

Celia says my father
will bring me a golden bowl.
When I think of my father
I cannot see him
for the big yellow bowl
like the moon with two handles
he carries in front of him.

                     : :

Grandpa, grandpa...
(Light all about you...
ginger...pouring out of green jars...)
You don't believe he has gone away and left his great coat...
so you pretend...you see his face up in the ceiling.
When you clap your hands and cry, grandpa, grandpa, grandpa,
Celia crosses herself.

                     : :

It isn't a dream...
It comes again and again...
You hear ivy crying on steeples 
the flames haven't caught yet 
and images screaming 
when they see red light on the lilies 
on the stained glass window of St. Joseph. 
The girl with the black eyes holds you tight, 
and you run...and run 
past the wild, wild towers...
and trees in the gardens tugging at their feet 
and little frightened dolls 
shut up in the shops 
crying...and crying...because no one stops...
you spin like a penny thrown out in the street. 
Then the man clutches her by the hair...
He always clutches her by the hair...
His eyes stick out like spears. 
You see her pulled-back face 
and her black, black eyes 
lit up by the glare...
Then everything goes out. 
Please God, don't let me dream any more 
of the girl with the black, black eyes.

                     : :

Celia's shadow rocks and rocks...
and mama's eyes stare out of the pillow
as though she had gone away 
and the night had come in her place 
as it comes in empty rooms...
you can't bear it—
the night threshing about 
and lashing its tail on its sides 
as bold as a wolf that isn't afraid—and you scream at her face, that is white as a stone on a grave 
and pull it around to the light, 
till the night draws backward...the night that walks alone 
and goes away without end. 
Mama says, I am cold, Betty, and shivers. 
Celia tucks the quilt about her feet, 
but I run for my little red cloak 
because red is hot like fire.

                     : :

I wish Celia
could see the sea climb up on the sky
and slide off again...
...Celia saying
I'd beg the world with you...
Celia...holding on to the cab...
hands wrenched away...
wind in the masts...like Celia crying...
Celia never minded if you slapped her
when the comb made your hairs ache,
but though you rub your cheek against mama's hand
she has not said darling since...
Now I will slap her again...
I will bite her hand till it bleeds.

It is cool by the port hole.
The wet rags of the wind
flap in your face.

This poem is in the public domain.

Lola Ridge

Lola Ridge

Born in Dublin on December 12, 1873, Lola Ridge grew up in mining towns in New Zealand and Australia. When she was thirty-four years old, she immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in New York City.

by this poet

poem
(Shadows over a cradle...
fire-light craning...,
A hand
throws something in the fire
and a smaller hand
runs into the flame and out again,
singed and empty...,
Shadows
settling over a cradle...
two hands
and a fire.)
poem
Long vast shapes... cooled and flushed through with darkness...
Lidless windows
Glazed with a flashy luster
From some little pert café chirping up like a sparrow.
And down among iron guts
Piled silver
Throwing gray spatter of light... pale without heat...
Like the pallor of dead bodies.
poem
Aren't there bigger things to talk about
Than a window in Greenwich Village
And hyacinths sprouting
Like little puce poems out of a sick soul?
Some cosmic hearsay—
As to whom—it can't be Mars! put the moon—that way....
Or what winds do to canyons
Under the tall stars...
Or even
How that old roué, Neptune,
Cranes