5 Poets to Read For May Day (International Workers’ Day)

As the blossoms of spring unfurl and much of the world celebrates the achievements of labor movements, May Day emerges as a poignant reminder of the struggles and triumphs of workers worldwide. Originating from the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886, this day has evolved into a global commemoration of labor rights, solidarity, and the ongoing pursuit of social justice. And what better way to honor the spirit of May Day than by delving into the poetic voices that echo the sentiments of laborers, activists, and dreamers? Dive in with these five poets whose works resonate with the essence of International Workers’ Day.


Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes, a towering figure of the Harlem Renaissance, captured the soul of the working class with his poignant verses. His poems, such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again,” speak to the struggles and aspirations of marginalized communities, advocating for equality and dignity in the face of oppression. Hughes’ evocative imagery and powerful rhythms have inspired generations of activists and poets alike.


Marge Piercy


Marge Piercy’s poetry pulsates with the energy of activism and resistance. A vocal advocate for social justice and feminism, Piercy’s works delve into the lives of ordinary people—workers, women, and outsiders—striving for a more just society. Poems like “To Be of Use” and “Barbie Doll” confront issues of labor, gender, and identity with razor-sharp insight and unwavering compassion, making Piercy a fitting voice for May Day.


Pablo Neruda


Pablo Neruda, the Nobel laureate from Chile, weaves together themes of love, politics, and the human condition in his rich tapestry of verse. Neruda’s “The Heights of Macchu Picchu” explores the toil of laborers and the timeless quest for freedom, while many of his odes celebrate the dignity of everyday objects and experiences. His lyrical mastery and unwavering commitment to social justice make Neruda a beacon of hope for May Day celebrants around the globe.


Adrienne Rich


Adrienne Rich’s poetry is a clarion call for justice and equality in a world marred by oppression and exploitation. Her fearless exploration of gender, sexuality, and power resonates deeply with the ethos of International Workers’ Day. Poems like “Diving into the Wreck” and “Power” confront the intersections of personal and political struggle, urging readers to challenge the status quo and imagine new possibilities for a more equitable society.


Rupi Kaur


Rupi Kaur, a contemporary poet and performer, infuses her work with raw emotion and unapologetic honesty. Through poetry collections like Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur explores themes of trauma, healing, and resilience with a keen eye for social justice. Her accessible style and candid portrayal of human experiences make her a compelling voice for the digital age, resonating with audiences of all backgrounds.


As we commemorate May Day and honor the contributions of workers worldwide, let us not forget the power of poetry to inspire, educate, and empower. Whether reflecting on the struggles of the past or envisioning a more just future, these poets remind us of the enduring spirit of solidarity that defines the labor movement. So, this May Day, take a moment to immerse yourself in the verses of Langston Hughes, Marge Piercy, Pablo Neruda, Adrienne Rich, and Rupi Kaur—and let their words ignite the flames of hope and resistance in your heart.