Wednesday, March 23, 2016

(Then) The Poetry of Marc (Aug. 3, 1939) (Text and Video)

This post contains a video in which author  Stephen Siciliano employs Cab Calloway's "Jive: Page One of the Hepster's Dictionary" as soundtrack to a (Then) chapter celebrating Marc's political lexicon.

When Marc ran with Rockwell Kent, hit the streets with Dashiell Hammett, or spoke at the National Writers Conference, he played it humble when it came to the arts, the complex thought even. He told them he was a simple people's politician.

But he read plenty and lived a lot and, when you saw him now, you did not think of him as being young anymore. That was a long time past, really. The Marc was a man who had a story to tell. Or many.

But the song he sang was not of himself. The aria he sang was of East Harlem and his people there. He used the tools of Theodore Dreiser and the research of Jacob Riis. You heard the voices of Goldoni and Pietro Di Donato in this tale of a riverside tenement world he told the country.

At an August 3, 1939 House session, he rose to speak in support of a slum clearance and public housing bill and he was an soaring saxophone on a steamy evening.

"Go into my district on a hot summer night and see American babies sleeping on the fire escapes, gasping for air. I am sure if you saw that sight you would forget playing politics with human misery. Stand on the sidewalks of New York with the people who dwell in the slums when the siren of the fire truck is heard, and watch their faces, observe their eyes filling with fear, and see them wonder as to which relative, whose brother, whose sister, whose mother, whose child is going to be the next victim on the funeral pyre of a slum fire. I say this because these sights, and these sights alone, could stop this disgusting political game that is being played here, with human beings as pawns.

"This bill is not pump priming. It is the inexorable next step in the march of human progress. All we ask by this bill is not prosperity, not leisure, but to give our young Americans their share of air and sunlight with which God has endowed our nation." 
Performed at the Cornelia Street Café, New York City.

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