Picking up on Sentiment

One just knows good poetry when they see it!

I saw the following words on someone’s Twitter profile recently, and quickly experienced that familiar recognition of words well played and wanted to share:

When you are the hammer, strike. When you are the anvil, bear.

Seems good advice for day-to-day situational awareness, and actually comes from the poem “Preparedness” by Edwin Markham—known for being one of the poets of labor, with labor being a popular poetry topic of the past and present.

For all your days prepare,
And meet them ever alike:
When you are the anvil, bear—
When you are the hammer, strike.

Edwin Markham

Markham began writing poetry at 20, published eight years later and began steady submissions for various publications. Nineteen years later, Markham was prompted by a famous painting to write a poem of labor that would be well received by the public and catapult him to peak influence.

However, continued work in the controversial subject matter brought him much influential negative criticism as well.

Much too often, the manifestations of labor and workplace topics continue today to impact the health and well-being of the social construct, and labor poetry remains popular.

Do you have a labor poem you’d like to share? If so, post it! Drop a link in comments.

#Prompt – Write a poem about a labor or workplace topic that impacts you in some way.

Some common labor issues are:

  • child labor
  • hours required
  • shift fatigue
  • split days off
  • health and safety
  • working conditions
  • right to refuse
  • discrimination (age, gender, race, etc.)
  • fair pay
  • equal pay
  • discrimination
  • workplace religion topics
  • harassment

-And so on.

Pick a point of concern and write to your heart’s content!


Poet Edwin Markham, via Poetry Foundation

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

Book Recommendation: January 2022

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom (2009)

Historical, Fictionalized Biography of Early American—First African–American—Poet Phillis Wheatley, by Afua Cooper

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom


Taken from a settlement of “weavers, herders, farmers, griots, and fishermen” of the Wane clan of Fouta Toro, Senegal, promising griot Penda Wane (poet Phillis Wheatley) offers her story in hindsight, first through her poetic traditions of recording and later in this fictionalized, yet close biography by historian and poet Afua Cooper.

A griot is an African leader—specifically an historian and storyteller who may be a singer, poet, or musician. They’re considered a “repository” of oral tradition.

Looking at the history of American poetry, we might recognize from early education the name Phillis Wheatley as the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. But we shouldn’t mistakenly believe that this book was published in America, or had much hope of it. Instead, Wheatley was taken by proud masters (Pike, p.4) to London, where there was greater promise of manuscript acceptance from an African-American slave.

When first brought to America after her purchase by a Bostonian, Penda was renamed for the ship that carried her, the Phillis, and for her owner’s surname, Wheatley.

Author Afua Cooper sheds light on less-often realized circumstances of this historical figure of the world of poetry. Although the language of Cooper’s book is geared toward the juvenile audience, it’s mature and the work offers an informative picture of Wheatley from a time and perspective that many may not know.


Pike, E. Holly. Childhood and Slavery: An Interview with Afua
Cooper on Young Adult Fiction

Sheridan, Stephanie. Phillis Wheatley: Her Life, Poetry, and Legacy

Cooper, Afua. My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom


Works of Phillis Wheatley

Reluctant settler Anne Bradstreet: America’s First [English] Poet