Sunday, April 20, 2008
Soup for the Poor
In Anna Swir’s poem, “Soup for the Poor,” she describes the life of the poor, standing in soup lines in Warsaw during the Great War. The poem is quite simple and stark, but, because of its austere style, it paints a bleak portrait of life in Poland during the First World War. The poem begins, “Through the streets of Warsaw kitchens for the poor are hauled. The poor stand in lines, they warm themselves by bonfires which are lit for them in the streets of Warsaw (Swir).” Clearly, this excerpt reflects the bleak existence of Warsaw’s poor. The line, “they warm themselves by bonfires which are lit for them… (Swir),” hints at the helplessness of the poor (the bon fires have to be lit for them). In addition to focusing on the helplessness of the poor and the starkness of life in Warsaw during the Great War, the poem also describes the embarrassment associated with being so helpless. Having to stand in line for food, “Mother put on a kerchief, covered her face…. Mother was afraid that janitor’s wife would see her. Mother after all was the wife of an artist (Swir).” Once a member of the middle class, the mother, despite her husband’s distinguished profession, is relegated to the lowest social class, forced to stand in line, and wait for soup to be handed to her.