Labovitz on Lowenfels, January 1999 at the Writers House

After the Sherman Labovitz event at the Kelly Writers House, January 18, 1999, Al Filreis wrote the following informal summary for Writers House activists.

Last night Sherman Labovitz spoke at the House--about his experiences as a young communist leader in Philadelphia on trial under the Smith Act (for conspiring to teach the necessity of overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence as soon as conditions permit) and about his memoir, _Being Red in Philadelphia_. It was a wonderful session, well attended and exciting.

Sherm was the youngest of the nine Philadelphia Smith Act trial defendants. The oldest was Walter Lowenfels, avant garde poet from the 1920s, communist, and (at the time of the indictment) the editor of the Pennsylvania edition of the _Daily Worker_.

Sherm ended the program last night with a nice surprise. He pulled out his (rare) copy of the poems Lowenfels wrote during the trial and while in jail (awaiting high bail to be raised), and he read three of these poems--quite movingly, I thought.

"For a Political Refugee," a poem Sherm didn't read from the small collection _The Prisoners: Poems for Amnesty_ (1954), ends with this conscious Whitmanism:

	It would be easy for you to escape
			if your counry didn't cling
	to the soles of your shoes.

And the epigraph to that poem reads:

	It is easier to resist at the beginning than
		at the end. - Leonardo Da Vinci, 1500
Many years earlier, in a poem called "Message from Bert Brecht," Lowenfels had written this, with its historiographical conceit (events played out on the "stage" of history...and all that):
	And don't think
	is that actor over there
	to that other one
		the third one
	you don't see
	to that other one
		you can't hear
	offstage.			(from _The Portable Walter_)
(By the way, one of Lowenfels' daughters, Michal Kane, owns a wonderful small bookstore out toward Reading--"The Americanist.")



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