When poet David Mason wanted to reconnect with his roots in Colorado, he chose to write about one of the state's most significant labor movements that ended in tragedy.
In 1913, coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado went on strike in a fight for better pay and working conditions. The strike came to a brutal end when Colorado National Guard troops attacked and killed many of the miners, their wives and their children.
The Ludlow miners were mostly immigrants who had come to America seeking better lives and opportunities. Through his poetry, Mason draws attention to their plight and connects their story to issues faced by today's newcomers to the U.S.
"We still are a nation of many people who are sometimes given the impression that they don't have the right to exist," Mason says. "And 'Ludlow' is a story about people who were being told they didn't have the right to be here. And it's a story about people who fought for their existence here in this bleak, empty part of Colorado. And they lost."
"To use all this language, all this history, all this knowledge about versification and put it all together in what I hope is a very compelling story about a very serious moment in American history that's still with us, because we still are a nation of immigrants. We still are a nation that struggles with issues of corporate power, corporate greed, the rights of individual people." - poet David Mason
"I am a poet who grew up in Washington State, but I had family roots here in southern Colorado. And when I came back to Colorado in the late 1990s, I decided it was very important for me to try to write about Colorado." - poet David Mason
1. What is a strike? Why do workers go on strike?
2. What makes immigrants especially vulnerable to unfair treatment at work?
3. What kinds of occupations are most associated with strikes?
1. Why do you think David Mason chose to write about this topic?
2. If you had to choose an event that happened in your home state to write a poem about, what would you choose? Why?
3. Can you think of examples of how immigrants to the U.S. continue to struggle? Where did your family come from originally, and what kinds of struggles did they face when they first arrived here?