The New Hope: Voltairine de Cleyre's Forgotten Poem
by Robert P. Helms
The celebrated anarchist, freethinker, poet, feminist, and public intellectual Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) was twenty-six years old in 1893, living in West Philadelphia and at her best game as a writer and activist. She was then contributing occasional letters, articles, and a few poems to the Boston Investigator , which in its day (1831-1904) was a well-respected and lively forum for liberals, atheists, and dissident religionists.
Until recently there were no on-line databases for 19th century radical newspapers, and it was not so long ago that the internet didn’t exist. Even now in 2013, the database where I found this old gem is for paying customers only. But even before the internet came into its own, the Boston Investigator was not to be found in university libraries. I remember looking for it and having other researchers ask me if I knew where it might be. Now, one can search the full text of the paper’s first 64 years of publication. Thus it seems that in spite of a surge in interest in this author since Paul Avrich’s biography An American Anarchist: The Life Of Voltairine de Cleyre (1978) and three new books by or about her in 2004-05, this poem “The New Hope” evidently has not been mentioned or reprinted in the century since the poet’s death, or perhaps not since it first appeared.
I have uncovered a few other lost pieces by Voltairine de Cleyre that involved a bit of detective work, but the present discovery was merely knowing her work and searching a newly available source. Even so, I am very proud to present this forgotten poem in which the great anarchist declares her independence from superstition.
The New Hope
by V. de Cleyre
[Editor's note: This poem first appeared in the Boston Investigator (Boston, MA)
on Wednesday, March 15, 1893, page 3.]
I stand in the darkness waiting