The Weary Colossus

slice-of-life_individualIn 1883, in an effort to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem. Initially she declined, but later penned The New Colossus that was read at an auction of art and literary works. Though the statue opened in 1886, it wasn’t until 1903 when a plaque that bears the text of the poem, was placed on the pedestal of the statue, reinventing the purpose of Lady Liberty as a welcoming mother to refugees and immigrants.

My own ancestors passed through Ellis Island from Ireland and England, with few possessions and courageous hope. Almost everyone I know can claim descending from immigrants. We are a beautiful melting pot! And so this last year has caused my heart to break as I see nationalism and xenophobia on the rise, as I cringe at the push to ban Muslim immigrants and label them as dangerous, as I hear chants of “build the wall” to isolate us from our neighbors. So to deal with my angst I joined forces with Emma Lazarus to write this poem to my daughter,and for myself.

Writing can be so cathartic.

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“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

Through tear-filled eyes she strains to see

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Who seek solace and nothing more,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

From devastated lands they flee

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Downtrodden refugees of war

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

In spite of those who refuse to see

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Which America should shut no more

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9 thoughts on “The Weary Colossus

  1. I love this idea of writing with a dead poet – as well as the power of your words. My older son and I have started visiting the graves of dead authors – we call it our Dead Writers Tour. They still speak to us, as words outlive the writer … so enjoyed this.

  2. I have always loved Emma’s poem, and I think your poem is beautiful, too, Paula. My father’s parents were not born here. We are a melting pot – it should be celebrated. What is happening to our beloved country?

  3. Wow–you and Catherine Flynn have written amazing poems with really different strategies today. So interesting to read about the processes and then see the results. Your sentiments and messages are SO important.

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