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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.

The Woman with Jewels

The woman with jewels sits in the cafe,
Spraying light like a fountain.
Diamonds glitter on her bulbous fingers
And on her arms, great as thighs,
Diamonds gush from her ear-lobes over the goitrous throat.
She is obesely beautiful.
Her eyes are full of bleared lights,
Like little pools of tar, spilled by a sailor in mad haste for shore. . .
And her mouth is scarlet and full—only a little crumpled—like a flower that has been pressed apart. . .

Why does she come alone to this obscure basement—
She who should have a litter and hand-maidens to support her on either side?

She ascends the stairway, and the waiters turn to look at her, spilling the soup.
The black satin dress is a little lifted, showing the dropsical legs in their silken fleshings. . .
The mountainous breasts tremble. . .
There is an agitation in her gems,
That quiver incessantly, emitting trillions of fiery rays. . .
She erupts explosive breaths. . .
Every step is an adventure
From this. . .
The serpent’s tooth
Saved Cleopatra.

This poem is in the public domain.

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

Bountiful Givers,
I look along the years
And see the flowers you threw…
Anemones
And sprigs of gray
Sparse heather of the rocks,
Or a wild violet
Or daisy of a daisied field…
But each your best.

I might have worn them on my breast
To wilt in the long day…
I

poem
Secrets
infesting my half-sleep…
did you enter my wound from another wound
brushing mine in a crowd…
or did I snare you on my sharper edges
as a bird flying through cobwebbed trees at sun-up
carries off spiders on its wings?
 
Secrets
poem

I love those spirits
That men stand off and point at,
Or shudder and hood up their souls—
Those ruined ones,
Where Liberty has lodged an hour
And passed like flame,
Bursting asunder the too small house.