Calling all poets, wordsmiths and rhymers: The Forward is sponsoring a poetry contest to remember the tragic fire that engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in lower Manhattan on March 25, 1911. According to their website:
“A century ago, 146 workers – mostly immigrant women – died as flames engulfed the floors where they worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City.” The fire itself was started innocently – a flare up in a scrap bin under a cutter’s table – but, largely due to the neglectful management and unsafe, sweatshop-like conditions of the factory, it led to one of the deadliest industrial incidents in New York’s history.
As the Forward writes, “The ensuing public outcry against unsafe work conditions was covered in detail in the pages of the Jewish Daily Forward by poet Morris Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld’s portrayal of the brutal effects of employee exploitation led to a trial of the factory’s owners, a greater push to unionize the garment trade and the establishment of new labor laws designed to protect workers.”
Still, even 100 years later, injustice and unsafe workplace conditions continue for too many laborers. The Forward’s poetry contest aims to honor the memory of the workers who died in the fire, and bring new light to the topic of labor and immigrant rights.
“The Forward is accepting original, unpublished English and Yiddish poems that address these questions or reflect upon the tragic fire’s meaning and legacy. A distinguished panel of judges will select a winning poem in each language to receive a $500 cash prize and to be published in the Forward. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. EST on February 14, 2011.”
Read the complete rules and send in your poem here.