Speaking of 1911

Frozen by Fire, by Donald Kentop, is a collection of poems imagining the lives of those who are forever frozen in those few moments after 4:40 p.m. on March 25, 1911. It is available from Paper Wings Press (paperwingspress@comcast.net).


In England, the Edwardians were poised
upon the peak of power, while the French
reveled gaily in La Belle Époque,
and in America, a hangover
from the Gilded Age, when Irving Berlin
composed "Alexander's Ragtime Band,"

Scott Joplin published Treemonisha, Gustav
Mahler led the New York Philharmonic,
Caruso sang at the Met, and Ty Cobb hit
four-twenty, and more immigrants arrived.
Boatloads from the south and east of Europe
sailed west searching for their golden dream.

They made the Lower Eastside the most densely
populated area on earth,
worse than Bombay, according to Rudyard Kipling,
Broome Street, Mott Street, Hester and Canal Street
were overwhelmed with buzzing hives of people,
bursting-ripe with possibility.

The myth proclaimed the cobblestones were made
of gold, but they were merely gilded; gold
so thin it covered up the earth. Beneath
were people on whose shoulders wealth depended,
a wealth beyond belief, and owned by less
than one percent of people in America.

This was the time of the Triangle fire:
exploding riches, strikes and modern art,
emerging science, muckrakers, ragtime,
privilege challenged, looming war, the spread
of phones and cars, aeroplanes, a woman's
right to vote, the RMS Titanic launched.