Introduction of Texts
For this project, I chose two texts from the late 1910’s and the 1920’s that relate to immigration from both sides of my family. The first text relates to Irish immigration. This text is titled Ireland’s work for America and Humanity; a plea for freedom and it is a transcribed lecture by James T. Gallagher from the year 1919. The lecture is the second in a series of lectures on Irish immigration taking place in Charlestown, Massachusetts, by the Educational Committee of the guild. As the title suggests, Gallagher is on the side of the immigrants—as well as being an immigrant himself—and makes several points about why the Irish should be independent from the British empire and treated better internationally. The archive that this work is in is Harvard’s “Immigration to the United States, 1789–1930,” a sub-collection in the Curiosity Collections online. This sub-collection “documents voluntary immigration to the United States from the signing of the Constitution to the start of the Great Depression” (cite). This definition is particularly interesting because of the key word “voluntary,” which reveals that the archive is composed of works that tell stories of people who were likely hopeful on their move to America, only to be met with xenophobia. According to the source page, the work was electronically reproduced in 2006 by Harvard College Library Digital Imaging Group.
My second text is a newspaper clipping originally titled Political Passions of Sacco-Vanzetti Battle Give Way To Legal Fight; Lawyers Displacing Clients in Limelight. This clipping was originally published in 1926, written by John J. Leary Jr. and published in “The World,” a New York newspaper. The piece is on the highly contested murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants who many believe were wrongly convicted of murder and were executed after their guilty verdict. Many believe that their guilty verdict was a result of anti-anarchist sentiments, but even more so anti-immigrant ideals. The article itself is about the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti as well as additional testimony. The archive that this piece is in is the Digital Commonwealth/Massachusetts Collections Online. The physical copy that the online edition was created from is in the Harvard Law School Library, where it was apparently donated to along with other materials pertaining to the case. The case itself took place in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, so it does make sense for the documents to stay within the state. Both documents pertain to xenophobia towards immigrants, with the latter being a more extreme example than the former. Below are my remixed poems.
Toil and blood
Dead and wounded
Murder and destroy
Fathered by devils and born in hell
War, darkness, extermination
Plea for self-determination
The emerald gem in the ring of the sea
Freedom of thought and relative beauty of souls
Contributions to civilized, christianized, educated Europe
Do you wonder that she wants to hold her?
Hypocrisy and murder of the motherland
Starve and murder her children
Proud and self-respecting oppressor
Recognition, liberty, and peace
Rejoice in revolution
Sacco and Vanzetti
Pawns in a game of law
Failure of a government
To make right decisions
Treason, murder, and sanity
Become the limelight, prosecution, and hysteria
I actually had some difficulty making my remix poems. Even though I am an English major, I’ve never really been interested in reading poetry, let alone writing it myself, so the remix project was a challenge for me. The first thing I did was just read through each of the texts to get a better sense of what they were about. They were interesting formats to read because rather than being purely academic, one was a newspaper article and the other was a lecture, so I thought a free verse poem structure would be appropriate and keep a similar tone. The next thing I did was go back through and write down all of the words and/or phrases that I found interesting or that I felt pertained to the meaning of the work. I tried to look to Zong! for inspiration, but the main difference between my writing and that book is that I was keeping a similar viewpoint to the original authors, while Philip’s message was completely different from the meaning of the original work.
I think my first poem makes visible that the subject is Ireland and keeps the focus on how the British Empire is ruining the country, as well as that Ireland would be better off being independent. I found that the source lecture had some quiet poetic phrasing in it already, so I kept a few of those phrases in my poem, but reframed them using different language around them. Aside from its first line, the second stanza of my people is made up lines that were originally phrases in the lecture, taking them out of their context and reconstructing them together in the poem to change the overall meaning, but keep the message that Ireland is beautiful in itself, which is the reason why Britain wants to keep them, yet also shows that it deserves independence.
The main thing I think is no longer visible in my first poem is the context in which the original work was created. What I mean by this is that a reader no longer knows who the lecturer is, why the lecture was being given, or even that he was an Irish immigrant, so the part of the work that pertains to immigration is not really there. Furthermore, while it is deeply implied that the poem is talking about the relationship between Ireland and Britain, since neither of them are explicitly named, it leaves room for the possibility of the reader to miss this, although I do not think that it likely, because the language heavily implies the subjects.
In my second poem, I think I did a good job of making visible the bias of the United States government against Italian immigrants and how this bias came into play in this particular court case. I think that the first three stanzas and the way I wrote them to contrast the thing with how it is spun in the media contribute to the meaning and make a jarring contrast between what is real and what is portrayed to the general public.
Like Ireland in my first poem, I think that the main thing that it fails to make visible is that it is specifically about the Sacco and Vanzetti court case, which is only really made visible by including their names in the title. However, I think this makes the meaning of the work more all-encompassing because it can apply to general tensions between immigrants and the United States rather than being too specific to their case. Furthermore, Zong! is also not very explicit upon first reading it.
Overall, I found that remix poetry is a viable way to express oneself in relation to previous literature and/or history.