Saturday, 22 May 2021

Lola Ridge (1873 – 1 941) – Irish born poet who lived in New Zealand, Australia and America

With thanks to Dr Connie Ruzich for reminding that that, although Lola is on my List of Female Poets of the First World War, I had not yet researched her.  I now understand why I placed Lola in my List as a New Zealand poet. But where to put her?  What do you think? 

Cover of Lola's collection
Rose Emily Ridge was born in 1873 in Dublin, Ireland (Eire). Her parents were Joseph Henry and Emma Ridge, nee Reilly - she was their only surviving child. Lola's father died when she was three years old and her mother toook her to live in New Zealand, settling in Hokitika.  Emma later married a miner who was from Scotland.   

In 1895, Lola married Peter Webster, who managed a gold mine in Hokitika. In 1903, she left her husband and moved to Sydney, Australia with her three-year-old son Keith. She studied at Trinity College and enrolled in art classes at the Sydney Art School.  Lola had poems printed in the “Canterbury Times” and the “Otego Witness”, which were New Zealand publications, and in the  “Sydney Bulletin”, an Australian magazine.

After the death of her mother, Lola went to live in America, using the pen name Lola Ridge – artist and poet.  In 1907 she was living in San Francisco.  One of her poems was published in 1908 in “Overland  Monthly”, a magazine published in California, founded in 1868 by Anton Roman, a Bavarian-born bookseller who moved to California during the Gold Rush.  

Later in 1908, Lola went to live in Greenwich Village, New York, leaving her son in a childrens’ home in San Francisco. Her long poem, “The Ghetto”, was first published in “The New Republic”, a magazine of commentary on politics, contemporary culture, and the arts, founded in 1914 and still going strong.  Lola’s first poetry collection, “The Ghetto and Other Poems”, was published in 1918. On 22nd October 1919, Lola married David Laws.

In 1935, Lola was awarded the Shelley Memorial Award, given by the Poetry Society of America. She died in 1941. Her papers are held at Smith College.

Collections by Lola Ridge include “The Ghetto, and Other Poems” (1918), “Sun-up, and Other Poems” (1920), “Red Flag” (1927), “Firehead” (1930), and “Dance of Fire” (1935).

Some of Lola's poems:


  Men die...

  Dreams only change their houses.

  They cannot be lined up against a wall

  And quietly buried under ground,

  And no more heard of...

  However deep the pit and heaped the clay--

  Like seedlings of old time

  Hooding a sacred rose under the ice cap of the world--

  Dreams will to light.


  The old men of the world have made a fire

  To warm their trembling hands.

  They poke the young men in.

  The young men burn like withes.

  If one run a little way,

  The old men are wrath.

  They catch him and bind him and throw him again to the flames.

  Green withes burn slow...

  And the smoke of the young men's torment

  Rises round and sheer as the trunk of a pillared oak,

  And the darkness thereof spreads over the sky....

  Green withes burn slow...

  And the old men of the world sit round the fire

  And rub their hands....

  But the smoke of the young men's torment

  Ascends up for ever and ever.

"THE TIDINGS" (Easter 1916)

  Censored lies that mimic truth...

       Censored truth as pale as fear...

  My heart is like a rousing bell--

       And but the dead to hear...

  My heart is like a mother bird,

       Circling ever higher,

  And the nest-tree rimmed about

       By a forest fire...

  My heart is like a lover foiled

       By a broken stair--

  They are fighting to-night in Sackville Street,

       And I am not there!

From “The Ghetto, and Other Poems” (1918)