Hello Poets! Welcome to another exciting edition of Haibun Monday, where we blend prose-poetry and haiku. I am Frank J. Tassone, your host, and today, let’s talk Labor!
Today, The United States celebrates Labor Day to commemorate workers:
Labor Day in the United States of America is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the development, growth, endurance, strength, security, prosperity, productivity, laws, sustainability, persistence, structure, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday.
Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty states in the United States officially celebrated Labor Day.
The United States, however, is not the only country that recognizes the contributions of workers:
Canada’s Labour Day is also celebrated on the first Monday of September. More than 80 countries celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 – the ancient European holiday of May Day. (May Day was chosen by the Second Internationale of socialist and communist parties to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886.)
Workers have faced difficulties ranging from exploitative conditions to virulent (and violent) opposition to their participation in unions. Langston Hughes, who worked multiple jobs while writing, witnesses to the worker’s struggle:
Clean the spittoons, boy.
Clean the spittoons.
The steam in hotel kitchens,
And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
And the slime in hotel spittoons:
Part of my life.
Two dollars a day.
Buy shoes for the baby.
House rent to pay.
Gin on Saturday,
Church on Sunday.
Babies and gin and church
And women and Sunday
All mixed with dimes and
Dollars and clean spittoons
And house rent to pay.
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord.
Bright polished brass like the cymbals
Of King David’s dancers,
Like the wine cups of Solomon.
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord.
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished—
At least I can offer that.
Com’mere, boy!Langston Hughes, “Brass Spittoons” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Source: Collected Poems (Vintage Books, 1994)
Yes, Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. Yes, many schools start up the next day. Yes, I am one of those returning teachers. But let’s not lose sight of the importance of this holiday. Where would any of us be without the important work done by workers?
Let’s celebrate Labor by writing a haibun that alludes to workers, Labor Day, the former and current struggles of Workers, or anything else labor related.
For those new to haibun, the form consists of one to a few paragraphs of prose—usually written in the present tense—that evoke an experience and are often non-fictional/autobiographical. They may be preceded or followed by one (or more) haiku—nature-based, using a seasonal image—that complement (without directly repeating) what the prose stated.
New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:
- Write a haibun that references memorial as described above
- Post it on your personal site/blog
- Copy your link onto the Mr. Linky
- Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
- Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work
- Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so
- Have fun!