Huddled Masses Tweet Ode to Lady Liberty

By Julie Shapiro | October 12, 2011 2:01pm
Poets House is crowd-sourcing a new poem about the Statue of Liberty on Twitter.
Poets House is crowd-sourcing a new poem about the Statue of Liberty on Twitter.
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Flickr/John and Gill

LOWER MANHATTAN — The huddled masses are writing a new poem about Lady Liberty to celebrate the statue's 125th birthday later this month.

For the past week, Poets House has been tweeting prompts based on "The New Colossus," the Emma Lazarus poem that first captured the Statue of Liberty's role as a beacon for new immigrants.

People from around the country have responded to Poets House's call, tweeting their own modern interpretations of Lazarus' classic.

"It's an old poem, but it has a lot of meaning today," said Mike Romanos, director of the children's room at Poets House, who has been tweeting the prompts and will help craft a new poem from the responses.

"What would the poem sound like if it was written today?" Romanos added. "We're asking people to reimagine it."

The first prompt last week was to rewrite the most famous lines of Lazarus' poem: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Preston MacDougall from Tennessee, tweeting as @ChemicalEyeGuy, responded: "Sweeping migration, up on our shores, freedom rises from the depths."

In response to other prompts, people found new ways to describe Lady Liberty's towering grandeur.

"Giant of the gloaming," wrote @teachnypl. "Gold drenched robes. A stoic reminder of our country's strength."

Jenny Herdman Lando, from Astoria, wrote a haiku:

"Blue in silhouette

the flame's glow begins to fade

the lady stands tall."

With a more ominous twist, @alexandrious wrote, "in a land that slumbers / when will the sleeping giant wake up?"

Romanos will continue collecting lines of poetry this week — to be included, add the hashtag #statuepoem to your tweet — and then he and others at Poets House will weave the lines into a new 14-line sonnet, the same format as Lazarus' original.

"It's a great project to bring people together," Romanos said. "It's a fun experience but it's also about the creative process."

The National Park Service will display the poem at the information center in the Statue of Liberty's base, and it will also be publicized on the NPS and Poets House websites, said Jane Ahern, spokeswoman for the NPS.

It is unclear if the poem will be read at the Statue of Liberty's big anniversary celebration Oct. 28.

Following the anniversary, the statue will close to the public for a year of renovations, but Liberty Island will remain open.

For more information about the Statue of Liberty poem, visit the Poets House website.