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Cotton Famine Poetry: Technology, Trade, and Transatlantic Discourse  

Simon Rennie

The Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861–1865 (also known as “The Cotton Panic” or simply “The Distress”) was largely caused by the Union blockade of Confederate goods, including cotton, during the American Civil War. The economy of the highly industrialized English county of Lancashire was heavily dependent on cotton. The poetry associated with this crisis represents a demographically diverse documentation of emotional response, commentary, and reportage. Almost four hundred poems have been collated and analyzed on the database developed at the University of Exeter, but it is known that there are hundreds more still to be added to this collection, which have yet to be processed or even discovered. The bulk of the poems were recovered from local Lancashire newspapers and other UK publications, but there is also verse published in Australia, France, Ireland, and dozens from publications representing both sides of the American Civil War itself. Almost all of the poetry first saw the light of day in newspapers, and in Lancashire these publications were local to each of the mill towns affected by the crisis. Towns such as Bolton, Rochdale, Blackburn, Preston, and Burnley had grown exponentially in the decades up to the Famine, and their populations, in many cases newly literate, were served by discrete periodicals performing important municipal services as conveyors of news, opinion, entertainment, and advertising. In addition, almost all British newspapers in the 1860s featured a weekly poetry or literature column, and though they sometimes included verse from classic living or historical authors, they often encouraged readers to submit poetry for publication. Cotton Famine poetry provides a window into the feelings and opinions of ordinary people in reaction to one of the most concentrated periods of industrial economic distress in the latter half of the 19th century.

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The Lira Popular in Chile: An Important Latin American Broadside from the Late 19th and 20th Centuries  

Simoné Malacchini Soto

Lira Popular refers to the group of broadsides printed in Chile between 1860 and 1920, a period considered to be “classic,” although reappearing into the early 21st century. In these broadsides, verses written in ten-line stanzas, called originally décimas in Spain (a metric consisting of stanzas of ten eight-syllable verses), that were dedicated to both the human (daily, historical, love, news topics) and the divine (religious topics) were published. Over time, the content of the sheets evolved to become more newsworthy by portraying journalistic events of a criminal nature. Each sheet contained four to eight poems, although they generally consisted of five or six. They were undated and generally contained compositions by a single popular poet (although there are cases of sheets signed by more than one poet). The poet included their name at the end of the paper and sometimes added their address in order to market their sheets, as well as the print shop that often functioned as a place of sale. Although the phenomenon is also called string literature, it has not been confirmed that, in Chile, these sheets were hung for sale. The name Lira Popular is usually associated with the popular poet Juan Bautista Peralta, who titled his sheets in this way, perhaps parodying a literature magazine of the time called Lira Chilena; however, among the popular poets themselves, this phenomenon was already called “popular verses” or “popular poetry,” even referring to the sheet with the term lira.

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Martí, José  

Alfred J. López

José Martí (1853–1895) is the best known of Cuba’s founding figures and was the civilian leader of the Cuban independence movement. Beyond his iconic status among Cubans and the diaspora, Martí ranks among the most important Latin Americans of the 19th century. Aside from his revolutionary legacy, Martí remains a canonical figure of 19th-century Latin American literature. As a poet he pioneered Latin American modernismo; volumes such as Ismaelillo (1882) and Versos sencillos (Simple verses, 1891) are considered masterpieces. Martí’s US crónicas (chronicles), which appeared in Latin America’s most respected newspapers of the 1880s, stand among the most important journalistic works of the Gilded Age. His other writings span several other genres, including drama and prose fiction. Martí also founded a newspaper, Patria, which served as the Cuban independence movement’s official mouthpiece. In a lifetime of exile and immigration spanning three continents and a half-dozen countries, he worked as a secondary teacher and university professor; law clerk; journalist, editor, and translator; and diplomat. Martí’s collected works fill twenty-six volumes, with previously unknown writings still emerging. Biographers generally divide Martí’s life into three phases: childhood and adolescence in Cuba, culminating in his imprisonment and first exile (1853–1871); post-exile life in Spain, Mexico, and Guatemala (1871–1878); and after the second exile from Cuba, his mature revolutionary period in New York (1881–1895). A brief imprisonment for conspiracy ended with Martí’s first expulsion from Cuba in January 1871. He spent the next four years in Spain, where he continued to denounce Spanish imperialism and earned a law degree. He then rejoined his family in Mexico but had to flee after the rise of the dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1876. Martí then emigrated to Guatemala, where he attempted to settle with his wife Carmen Zayas Bazán, whom he married in 1877. But disagreements with President Justo Rufino Barrios again forced the couple into exile. After a failed attempt to resettle in Havana under a general amnesty following the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878) and his second expulsion from Cuba, Martí eventually landed in New York, which served as his base for building the Cuban independence movement. After several false starts, the Cuban Revolutionary Party finally launched its War of Independence in February 1895. Martí joined rebel forces on the island in April and died in battle little over a month later. Martí’s posthumous fame spread slowly, but by the 1930s he was generally hailed as Cuba’s great “apostle” of independence. Successive Cuban governments burnished his legend, and Fidel Castro claimed Martí as the 1959 Cuban Revolution’s “intellectual author.” The mass emigration of Cubans fleeing the revolution then spread Martí’s fame to the United States and Europe; Cuban-Americans continue to identify with him as an example of the nation in exile. Though not a Latino in the contemporary sense, Martí remains a key figure in the historical formation of US Latino/a identities.