Haniel Long’s Pittsburgh Memoranda: Documentary Form and 1930s Political Poetry


Recent studies of 1930s political poetry understandably tend to look at the period through a Marxist lens, but as a result they neglect Haniel Long’s innovative documentary poem Pittsburgh Memoranda (1935). This essay seeks to recover Long—who was not a Marxist, though certainly a political radical—in order to arrive at a more complete picture of both the documentary genre and the cultural work of the times, complementing and complicating the existing scholarship. It argues for the importance of Long’s idiosyncratic political and aesthetic stances and puts him in conversation with contemporary Marxist poets and critics, utilizing Edwin Rolfe and Stanley Burnshaw as examples. Further, it positions Long’s work as a forerunner to and possibly an influence on Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Book of the Dead” (1938). Thus, this essay restores Long to the discussion about the political poetry of the Thirties generally and the documentary political poem more specifically.