Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Sunday, September 20, 2020

RBG: Don't Despair; Defy!

Ruth Bader Gins-
burg’s passing is a good time to choose action over despair.

Like others, I felt her death as a tightening of the right’s death-grip on the country, a shrinking of what’s left to save, an impulse to give in to Trumptopian Covid depression.

But no.


Hell, no!

Tomorrow I do something, with no time to worry it’s not enough or not good enough. If we must rage against the dying of the light, let us rage with action. Even if it feels feeble and feckless, at least it’s defiant. For example:

Register and Vote. For Biden, of course. Assistance can be found in Facebook, or Steven Colbert’s State-specific videos on registering, requesting absentee ballots, and voting early in Covid America. In short, have a plan.

Multiply your vote with Vote Tripling, a personal approach much superior to texts from strangers. Get three friends to get three friends to commit to voting, and then remind them as the election nears. Three times three times three ad victoria.

Adopt a battleground state and help turn out targeted new and/or infrequent voters, a proven and efficient method of boosting turnout of folks on our side where it matters most. Crooked Media can guide you.

Call your Senators now and demand they REFUSE to consider any Supreme Court Justice until the new president is inaugurated. Indivisible makes it easy.

Demonstrate for causes like Black Lives Matter with discipline to fit the times.

Oh, yeah, and if you got it, give money. I suspect those texts from strangers are telling you how.

Every conversation these days tends to fall off down that black hole of Trump-sickness. As soon as he comes up, say, “I am doing A, B, and C, about it. What will you promise to do?

Optimism is sometimes defined as a belief that things will turn out better than what’s probable and thereby improve one’s chances. Antonio Gramsci spoke about “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the spirit.” He wrote that from a fascist prison, and you are not there, yet. So, take heart, defy the odds, and fight back!

If you got a better idea, tell it, spread it, and, especially, DO it.

When I was pessimistic about you sharing pics of that sad kitten, none of you did. I am betting that many of you will share this one, now.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Don’t Just Call Out: Organize!

No we don't fit in with that white collar crowd
We're a little too rowdy and a little too loud
There's no place that I'd rather be than right here
With my red-necks white socks and blue ribbon beer

-Johnny Russell
No photo description available.The White Working Class is not some single thing seething with macho resentment, racism, and contempt for expertise, but a contradictory conglomeration of mostly decent, hardworking people, exploited, sneered at, and abandoned by a liberal elite, who are sometimes mischaracterized as left. I say this because I am of the white working class and of the left, having humped the line for 31 backbreaking years alongside workers—both white and of color—at Chrysler’s Newark Assembly Plant in Delaware. In the early ‘80s, they voted for me, a professed socialist, to serve them in the Plant Shop Committee for three years. They’d seen the newsletters I’d distributed with my comrades at the plant gates opposing speedup, pushing for safety, and urging affirmative action in our pale and male skilled trades. Later, in the late ‘90s, they voted nearly unanimously at our UAW local 1183 meeting to support my work chairing state-wide efforts to stop denying former felons their right to vote, a disenfranchisement targeting citizens of color. One of my proudest possessions is hanging in my office: a plaque my union gave me recognizing my work.
Like me, a Texas descendant, many of these folks are of southern heritage. One of my shop-mates who wore the Stars and Bars on his back once decided it would be fun to harass me as a “Polack” until I thought we would come to blows. I knew I would come out the worse, but it was a matter of honor, so I decided on a day of reckoning and confronted him, gently. He got it, saying he believed in treating everybody with respect. And then we were friends. He taught me a lesson about honor, himself, when he declared once and for all that he was through drinking after a bad car crash, and he was true to his word, boasting, “I don’t have to go to any of those meetings; I just said it and it was done.”
Some, I am sure, would keep those Confederate statues. I have seen the ones in Montgomery, Alabama in front of the Statehouse—Jefferson Davis and the rest. I have also seen the suspended pillars of weathering steel at the nearby National Memorial for Peace and Justice, each one signifying an American county, including New Castle, where human beings like our shop mates of color and some whites were lynched by the thousands. I am sure my white sisters and brothers would weep as I did as they read the names of the dead embossed on those rust-hued reminders.
Whites, Blacks, Latinx, male, female, gay, straight and trans worked and struggled side-by-side in the United Automobile Workers (UAW) for economic security and common dignity, just like the GM workers on strike are doing now. They did not always abandon their prejudices, but they demonstrated solidarity in ways the “woke” generation could learn from.
Now, I teach college English and have my students write essays from the angle of vision of different roles during the Freedom Rides, the 1960 struggle to integrate interstate bus transportation in the South. One role the class considers is the fictional Gavin Stevens, William Faulkner’s white Mississippi lawyer, who, in Intruder in the Dust, holds off a lynch mob with a shotgun until his African American client is cleared of murder. Stevens imagines lecturing a northerner who wants to civilize the red neck crowd. Says he (with punctuation added for clarity), “’Come down here and look at us before you make up your mind,’ and you reply, ‘No thanks, the smell is bad enough from here,’ and we say, ‘Surely you will at least look at the dog you plan to housebreak.’”
Calling out from a distance may feel like a blow against oppression, but winning someone over to a common struggle is what makes history.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Chelsea and Julian: When Poetry Crosses with Coverup

One of the yet unpublished poems from my novel in verse Jacobo the Turko is called “Wikileaks: JTF-GTMO Detainee Assessment.” It comes early in my story, and it gives me a chance to use the form of a Gitmo detainee assessment to outline the course of Jacobo’s life as well as the absurd fabrication by which his tormentors justify his imprisonment. I can thank Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange for my material. Anyone who peruses the Guantanamo Files will soon see how the truth is more absurd than my somewhat absurdist fable of an Ecuadorian indigenous who is mistaken for a Middle East terrorist. The pursuit of the files’ leakers reveals the lengths the intelligence community will go to to equate anyone who exposes them with the accused terrorists whose human rights they have trampled. Sometimes I wonder if fear of government persecution has deterred publishers from publishing my book. Or maybe it stinks, although half the poems in the book have been published by over a dozen national and international journals and anthologies, just not the prestigious lit rags.
The greatest crime of Chelsea Manning was to reveal to Julian Assange and thence to the world the murderous nature of the U.S. military’s campaign in Iraq (see “Collateral Murder”), the bogus nature of U.S. claims against the vast majority of prisoners at Guantánamo, and the towering arrogance at the U.S. State Department, especially when conflating our national interests with empire. Julian has just been arrested at London's Ecuadorian Embassy, and Chelsea has been returned to prison, where she is tortured with solitary confinement, on the yet to be proved pretext that she and Julian went a step beyond downloading secrets to hacking the password of a secure military server. This last charge, partially spelled out in a March 6, 2018 sealed indictment, gives great comfort to the war criminals who have murdered, tortured, and set the world on fire and wish to reverse the direction of opprobrium back to the smarmy Assange, as well as to Manning (and perhaps to President Obama, who pardoned Manning). It also gives some relief to the New York Times, who published the same documents as did Assange, and lets the mainstream media return to making Assange the scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. It also gives some distress to those of us who see the arrests of Manning and Assange as an attack on freedom of information and the press and a warning to all who challenge imperialist policy and state-sanctioned mayhem.
I invite you to peruse Andy Worthington’s 2017 characterization of what the Guantanamo Files reveal. The cult of secrecy, so often defended with cant about methods and means, is there exposed as a cover for incompetence and crime.
We who have been around a while have seen this before. For decades, everyone to the left of Richard Nixon was tarred as an ally or dupe of Russia. Communists were branded as traitors, not dissidents, and anyone whose opinions could be tied to the soviets, from the liberal Helen Gahagen Douglas to the red Dalton Trumbo, was smeared, blacklisted, or jailed.
Make no mistake, Russia today is ruled by a criminal clique of former apparatchiks who seized the property of the Russian people after the apparatchiks had run the socialist system into the ground. However, attempts to paint Trump or Assange as Russian assets is an opportunistic case of historical acid reflux disease. I remember how Khrushchev and his gang got rid of Stalin’s vile henchman Lavrentiy Beria without accusing themselves: they charged him with being a British spy. Similarly, American media accuses Trump, without admitting their own predilection for talking heads trumpery and establishment talking points over substantive news. One can hardly blame Americans for seeking news from alternative sources.
For example, there’s RT America, funded by the Russian Government. While often inserting Russian propaganda, it also broadcasts several distinguished Americans such as the commentators Chris Hedges and Larry King and the comic Lee Camp. Of course, Liz Wahl famously broke with RT when RT blipped out her question to Ron Paul about the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. On the other hand, RT’s Breaking the Set host Abby Martin condemned the Ukrainian invasion on-air, but stated RT backed her. You can accuse those remaining of being opportunistic or can doubt their ethos, but that’s too easy a way to dismiss their views. Personally, I prefer Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan González. At least there you may learn that if Trump pulls out of the START treaty with Russia, it will be the first time since 1972 that nuclear weapons are totally unregulated. Slim Pickens rides again!
If we let our dismay over our national disaster get highjacked by corporate media’s reductionism we may soon find ourselves swept up in the narrative of those, liberal to conservative, who backed the Iraqi war crimes Wikileaks exposed.
We love Chelsea Manning. Will we let her be tortured and destroyed? We hate Julian Assange. Is that a sufficient reason to accept DOJ claims about an incomplete password Assange might have sussed? Remember that the greater crime, the crime of the century, is the invasion of Iraq and the dismantling of human rights by the nation that proselytized human rights. Will we, poets or politicos, collude in the coverup?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Eulogy for Vic Sadot
Presented at his Celebration of Life
Ashland Nature Center
Hockessin, Delaware
January 13, 2019
by Phillip Bannowsky
Vic Sadot
July 21, 1947-October 6, 2018

Vic Sadot’s musical career is charted beautifully by his brother Rob in his remarks and obituary, from Vic’s founding of the Americana and folk-rock Crazy Planet Band to its re-incarnation as the Cajun-Zydeco Planete Folle, and we learn how Vic so often performed at events in the struggle for peace and social justice. I’d like to fill in a little with what I know about the political activism integral to his musical career. When I’m done, we’d like anyone else who has something to share about any aspect or incident in Vic’s life to come forward.
Victor Rene Sadot. “Vic,” was a musician, writer, publisher, social worker, disc-jockey, autoworker, and above all a revolutionary patriot. A son of an autoworker who had come to America after his French home had been force to quarter Nazi soldiers, Vic shared his father’s love for his adopted home, in spite of the economic insecurities of working class life. It is rumored (and now verified by his brother Rob) that he even led the Young Republicans at the University of Delaware. However, like so many of us from of that era, he was badly disillusioned as the truth about America’s aggression in Viet Nam came to light and as peace and black liberation struggles met with repression, but he was inspired by the protest, folk, and rock music of the era and by the first principles of America’s founding mothers and fathers. A 1968 article in The Review, official student newspaper at the university, lists Vic Sadot as a speaker at a rally opposing the firing of Professors Rob Bresler and Al Myers. A year later, Vic was named “Outstanding Senior” at a Student Government Association banquet where then Governor Russell Peterson castigated students who disrupted classes. Inside scoop: Peterson’s son was a conscientious objector and member of Students for a Democratic Society.
I remember really getting to know Vic in Washington DC at a peace demonstration in the early seventies. Around that time Vic and his brothers Joe and Rob had been arrested at the Fort Belvoir Army base in Virginia for leafleting the troops during an Armed Forces “Open to the Public Day.” He was the public, an American citizen, and whether they liked it or not he was going to act in the spirit of the nation’s founders. Joe, by the way, used to publish a satirical newsletter called The Crazy Planet, hence the name of Vic’s band.
Back to what the founders had to say, their words inspired Vic to become an organizer for the Delaware People’s Bicentennial Commission, a group founded by Jeremy Rifkin that crashed various official parties put on in 1975 and 1976 and applied what founding patriots like Thomas Paine said about King George to the corporate kings who had taken over. Vic recruited me and about a dozen others to shake thinks up in the Company State. Once, the city of Newark held a public bicentennial-slash-renaissance fair celebration, and of course Vic and the rest of us showed up to exercise our free-speech rights, but they tried to kick us out, trying to claim it was actually private. The brouhaha revealed that one of the City Council members had a financial interest in the event, even though she hoped that news would not be made public, but that’s your corporate Queens for you. We had a lot of fun in PBC, a somewhat gonzo operation in Delaware, where Vic set the tone.
Ovelapping somewhat with these activities, Vic began working for Chrysler in Newark and was one of the founding members of what we called the Progressive Movement, a rank-and-file faction of the United Automobile Workers Local 1183 that agitated for civil rights, women’s rights, safety, union democracy, and a return to the union’s first principles.  In fact, Vic inspired one of our first campaigns, the distribution of Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais. Vic wrote a review in the Progressive Movement’s newsletter, and we managed to sell maybe a dozen copies. These stories of radical agitators who built the labor movement had a positive influence on the political environment at Newark Assembly where several of us eventually won union office, although after Vic left.
One day while we were passing out our newsletter at the front gate, a couple of guys from the leading faction showed up, clearly looking for trouble, but we can’t completely blame them for what happened. We had been on a short strike a couple weeks before and Lyndon Larouche’s phony U.S. labor party showed up claiming that the strike was a plot by the C.I.A., that they were members of the University’s SDS chapterthey were not—that they had many of their members in the plantthey did notand they were taking over. Long story short, these two union guys tried to tear the flyers out of Vic’s hands and throw him over the rail, where most certainly he would have broken some bones. Vic pulled away, fortunately, and started explaining to the guy rationally how we were union brothers simply expressing our opinions blah blah, but these guys had got themselves good and drunk to elevate their courage and suppress their rational thinking. In 1979, Vic expanded into publishing. Carrying on the tradition begun by the late 60s Heterodoxical Voice and the early 70s Purgatory Swamp Press, in 1979 Vic founded the Delaware Free Press, changed to Delaware Alternative Press after the first issue was hit with a cease and desist. Somebody had already trademarked the name.
Soon after that, Vic joined the editorial board for the historic BroadsideSing Out Magazine, the famous mimeographed music mag from New York that printed words and music by topical singers from Woody Guthrie to Steve Forbert to Phil Ochs. In 1982, Vic republished in Broadside an article he wrote for the Delaware Alternative Press called “Phil Ochs’ FBI File.”
Vic was the ideal musicologist to host the “Freewheeling Roots Show” on the University of Delaware’s radio station in the early nineties. He brought the spirit of Phil Ochs to Delaware’s airwaves, the spirit of “The Broadside Balladeer,” to quote the title of Vic’s tribute song to Phil.
Over the years Vic contributed his music, analysis, and activism to numerous environmental and social justice issues, from the campaign to “Save White Clay CreekDon’t Dam it” to the struggle against the suppression of Dupont: Behinnd the Nylon Curtain, by Gerald Colby Zilg, to intervening to help fellow workers at the Newark Food Coop, to the struggle for Democracy and Independence in Haiti, to Save the Whales and to the dangers of Fukushima.
Vic saw countless deceptions and outrages emanating from the national security state that ruled the country he loved, from the assassination of JFK to Gulf of Tonkin incident to the Saddam’s missing weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, Vic took on the mantle of “the Truth Troubadour” on behalf of the 9-11 truth movement, which holds that the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was a false flag operation. He composed and recorded dozens of songs on the topic such as “The Ballad of Pat Tillman,” “Cheney’s in the Bunker,” and “Trouble in the Rubble.” These songs can all be found under Vic Sadot on YouTube.
We lost touch somewhat after he moved to California in 2008, but his name was always coming up in reports from the barricades. Vic had always kept up the struggle, even when he was struggling with his own troubles. Who knew he’d find peace in Berzerkely?
I recently learned that Vic had joined the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, where he of course became chair of their social justice committee. I had always known him as a non-believer in religious mythology. We had been business partners painting houses in one period and roommates in another, and we had many discussions about science, politics, and free-thinking. Still, I think how Vic felt can be described in the words he applied to his brother Joe Sadot, who died in 1978 at the age of 26. In Vic’s introduction to Green Leaves, the collected literary and sketch work of Joe’s, Vic wrote:  “He rejected supernatural spiritualism, but he embraced the natural spiritualism of awe and reverence for the mysteries of life and the intimacies of love and comradery.”
Before I call on friends and family to share their memories, I’d like us all to remember Vic and those of his family who have passed on in the tradition practiced by South American revolutionaries who would call roll for their fallen comrades. After each name, all assembled would call out “presente,” meaning the fallen are still present in their works and in our hearts. Let’s try it first with Phil Ochs. I say his name and you say “Presente! loud.”
Phil Ochs: Presente!
We’ll begin with Vic’s father, then his mother, his brother, and himself.
Jean Sadot: Presente!
Eleanor Sadot: Presente!
Joe Sadot: Presente!
Vic Sadot: Presente!


Friday, October 19, 2018

Invitation to Submit to Dreamstreets

For over forty years, Dreamstreets has published works by contemporary and historical writers and artists who live in, or have a strong connection to, Delaware. While we have at times opened for submissions, we have usually published work among a close-knit community of artists. We believe it is time to regularize that practice with a clear submissions process and publication twice per year, while occasionally publishing an extra and more closely-curated number, such as our Summer 2018 issue on the history of music from Wilmington in the 20th century.
What are we looking for? First, Delaware authors, those residing here and those in the diaspora. We like everything from avant-guard to home-spun. We like art that’s progressive and authors who are diverse. About forty years ago, we declared that we would not publish anything fascist, racist, or sexist, which set us somewhat apart, yet we have never been afraid of being edgy. Our purpose has always been to promote art that is marginalized by the insular esthetic of Delaware’s political economy, not to mention its insular geography. Take a look at past issues, archived at, but don’t limit yourself to what you see there. See if you fit the Delawarean criteria, check our submission guidelines, and submit.

Submission Guidelines (Read these carefully, or you may be ignored.)

We accept literary submissions in any genre from Delawareans and those in the Delaware Diaspora. We solicit our own visual art. Generally, we do not reprint previously published contemporary work although one previously published poem in a sequence of unpublished poems might be permissible; just make sure we know, so we can give credit. Our reading periods are during the months of December and June, although we may announce changes. Anything received outside of these submission periods will not be accepted or answered.
Send up to 5 poems of no more than 5 pages. Prose more than 10 pages will have to work hard to find a place. Begin no more than one poem on a page and make your stanza breaks clear. Send your work to sleech(at) as a single attached document in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) and write “Submission” in the email subject heading. Include a cover page with name, address, phone number, email and a short bio of 50 words or less, and indicate your connection to Delaware. Double space prose, single space poetry, use 12-pt Times New Roman font, and remove extra space between paragraphs. Align text left, except for special or unusual typography, in which case, we may have to work with you to render it faithfully.
Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know in your cover letter if you are courting another and inform us immediately if your work becomes elsewhere engaged. We reserve first serial rights until publication, when all rights revert to the author. Our rights include electronic as well as print publication and magazine re-prints. Please give Dreamstreets credit if you re-publish your work.
Submit only once per reading period in each genre unless we ask for more. Our editorial committee will review your work and get back to you before the next issue.
“Go at it boldly, and you'll find unexpected forces closing round you and coming to your aid.” -Basil King

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Stealing Enchantment

I’ve always been a bit enamored of the 1930s in spite of the crushing effects of the Great Depression that detrimentally affected so many. Yet it is that economic deprivation that brought people together. It began with sweeping Republicans out of office after their capitalist neo laissez faire policies and after decades of setting the tone for an economic life in the United States in the late 19th century through the the early 20th that allowed financial speculation to nearly lead to the downfall of an economic system designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Out of that collapse came a wave of Democratic Party leadership that favored people who deserved to have a chance to climb out of the pit dug for them by avaricious capitalism.
Even while the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted policies that provided relief and put people back to work through provisions like the Works Progress Administration (WPA), capitalists dug in their heels globally and went into a martial kind of mode to save themselves and then to regain power. This began in Italy and then in Spain and Germany.

Charles Wertenbaker

The growth of industrial capital, in a thinly veiled local example, is embodied in the 1950 novel by Delaware author Charles Wertenbaker entitled The Barons about three cousins in the early 20th century coming together to save a failing company and transform it into an industrial giant. Sound familiar?
Wertenbaker favored one of those cousins, portraying him, even in the midst of family scandal and personal foibles, as a leader who at least seemed to appreciate that the acquisition of wealth begins with hard work and not merely financial machinations or even good bookkeeping as his two other cousins believed, and who is in a position to do “a big, good thing.”
One can easily suppose that one of the major struggles of the 20th century was for capital to regain a foothold over the economic life of the world, accomplished as a result of global war. However that martial means that capital invented to save itself was ostensibly defeated after the end of World War II. That invention called fascism, which had over run Europe and threatened to supplant democracy in the United States and having already compromised genuine social progress in the Soviet Union, was never ultimately defeated.
Such was the conclusion determined in Charles Wertenbaker’s final novel, The Death of Kings from 1954. In the novel, the main antagonist, Louis Baron, the son of Stuart Baron from his previous novel The Barons, who had closely resembled A. I. duPont, resembles Henry Luce who runs a national magazine that could be easily mistaken for TIME magazine. Under Louis Baron’s aegis is assembled a network of political paranoia, a subterfuge of suspicions driven by villains, some of whom are unwitting, blinded by fear, and in the case of one who resembles Whittaker Chambers, outright and overtly evil.
The story in The Death of Kings begins with the devastating events just before the outbreak of World War II, particularly the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It was an event that split the Left, began the process of diluting a united Left in sympathy with progressive policies of the Roosevelt administration, and ended a “time of enchantment” during the 1930s, which would have been the title of Wertenbaker’s next novel, and the middle book of a trilogy that would’ve begun with The Barons and ended with The Death of Kings. 

Shortly after finishing The Death of Kings Wertenbaker contracted cancer, whether because it had run in his family or was triggered by the yellow paint he and a youthful friend had found and used to paint an entire house when working as laborers for Dupont near Wilmington. In any case, Wertenbaker considered cancer a somatic personification of evil. He made little more than some notes for A Time of Enchantment. About the proposed novel he declared:
“In all large organizations where one man is at the top, the others near the top will fight to get there, and so the morality of that organization will be conditioned by the struggle for power, and that morality will determine the organization’s external, as well as its internal, dealings. The only way to avoid this power complex, this power struggle, is by keeping the organization small and powerless (as in a very small business or a very small kingdom) or by curbing the power of the top man by vesting power in other –– and frequently hostile –– organizations (as in the checks and balances of the U.S. government or kingship in Britain). Let loose the struggle for power anywhere, and it will destroy all other concepts.”
While the phalanx of martial capitalism threatened to consume all of Europe, meanwhile in the United States, investments of government funds into the social welfare of our citizens was fueling progressive policies. Even some corporate leadership displayed some social responsibility, but it was government that established Social Security, unemployment insurance, greater enabling of labor unions, and cultural programs like the WPA’s artists, writers, music and theatre projects that fueled speculation that the projects might morph  into a cabinet level Department of Culture, and that was an enchanting notion.
However the seeds of fascism were hiding not only in the isolationist/America First woodwork, but in places like the Dies Committee of the U.S. Congress, having reared its ugly head in the attempted fascist coup d’etat exposed by General Smedley Butler in 1934. In Wertenbaker’s The Death of Kings we see a depiction of the right wing and fascists sympathizers gaining a foothold inside an important post war media vehicle. By the end of the novel Wertenbaker casts a wary eye at Spain with the remaining fascist regime under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The die had already been cast regarding the prospect of fascism in America. We had won the war, but we were loosing the battles, and over the next seventy years we would continue to loose battles while the legacy of Roosevelt’s policies got chipped away and the prospect of a time of enchantment faded from our consciousness. In this manner, Wertenbaker’s final two novels were not only prophetic but are now long out of print.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wilmington in the Nexus of 19th Century Urban Fiction

Wilmington in the 19th century was situated, as it still is, in the nexus of other mid Atlantic cities. Because of its genteel Quaker nature and its relatively smaller size, it was unlike, by early 19th century standards, the teeming metropolises of New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. These three cities became the source for a sub genre of antebellum literature by at least four authors with approximate  ties to nearby Wilmington: Edgar Allan Poe, George Lippard, Bayard Taylor, and most recently Walt Whitman, in an obscure and nearly lost early novel. Both Lippard and Taylor hailed from nearby Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Whitman lived his waning years in Camden, New Jersey where he died.
Our story, however, begins in Baltimore in the late 1820s with the brothers William Henry Leonard Poe and his younger brother Edgar. Estranged from one another throughout most of their youth, the Poe brothers, offsprings from the kind of rough urban life depicted in novels like Lippard's The Monks of Monk Hall and The Killers, Bayard Taylor's John Godfrey's Fortune, and Walt Whitman's The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, acted as muses for one another. However, Leonard Poe died on August 1, 1831 at the age of 24, probably from tuberculosis. Examples of Leonard Poe's poetry are similar, if not exactly the same in some cases, to his younger brother Edgar's poem "Tamerlane," making it likely that both worked together, without rancor, on the same poems, though both wrote their own separate poems.

There is a striking parallel between Poe and Delaware author and poet John Lofland. Both, at an early age, were seriously involved romantically with women, Sallie Ann Mitchell in Lofland's case and Elmira Royster in Poe's case, and both Lofland and Poe were considered bad candidates for marriage by the parents of both women. The experience of rejection, and the forced nuptials of both Mitchell and Royster, proved traumatic for both Lofland and Poe and had the affect of influencing their later work and maybe bringing the two closer together.

In one of the few prose works to have survived by Leonard Poe entitled "The Pirate," he reflects the anger and tragedy of Elmira Royster's forced marriage by depicting the "pirate," named Edgar in the story, as an exile who can never return home because he had murdered his promised betrothal on her wedding day.

Both Poe brothers spent their short lives together in Baltimore, where in later years Edgar and John Lofland encountered one another. It's not hard to imagine the two of them sharing their experiences at being jilted by romantic attachments via intervening parents. And one gets a good sense of the seedy nature of urban life in Baltimore from Lofland's own account in his "Confessions of an Opium Eater."

The urban environment in cities of the early 19th century are similarly depicted in early novels by Lippard, Taylor and Whitman. They are populated with con men, scam artists, poseurs, vagrants, prostitutes, and orphans. The honest and gainfully employed are mechanics, shop keepers, printers, blacksmiths, with others like lawyers, bankers and real estate agents often operating on the precarious edge of legality. In Whitman's The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, the villain is a lawyer out to deprive a young woman of her inheritance and to perpetuate the orphan status of Jack Engle. In Bayard Taylor's John Godfrey's Fortune,  the New York City of the same vintage as Whitman's novel seems full of fakers, shaky entrepreneurs, and women forced into prostitution by callous con men. The same could be said of Lippard's The Monks of Monk Hall, which depicts a hotbed of the same sorts of characters, but on steroids, close to home in Philadelphia. In early 19th century Delaware author Robert Montgomery Bird's Sheppard Lee, we find the protagonist hopping from body to body in the city of Philadelphia in a metempsychotic frenzy searching for a way to get rich quick.

Wilmington seemed like a refuge in the midst of ferment in the embryonic megalopolis of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. In Delaware author John Biggs' novel Demigods, which occurs later in the 19th century turning into the 20th, the protagonist John Gault nearly gets swallowed up in Philadelphia's urban landscape, where he works for a while in the city's ship building yards. It is not until he moves to genteel Wilmington that he achieves any sort of success, first as a newspaper publisher and nearly so as a politician.

In real life, it wasn't until Delaware poet and author John Lofland moved to Wilmington from Baltimore and became clean and sober that he accomplished his most important and relevant literary work.

Not so with Poe. The intense urban environment in which Poe lived in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York eventually proved to be too much. It was while attempting to make his way to Richmond, Virginia to be reunited with the widowed Elmira Royster, his sweetheart from his youth, that he got caught up in the nefarious election campaign practice of "cooping" in Baltimore, where men where rounded up, liquored up, and in a drunken state led from polling place to polling place to exchange votes for drinks, and then abandoned to the gutter, where Poe was eventually found. Poe had become a victim of an urban practice that could have easily fit into those depicted in Lippard's The Monks of Monk Hall, Taylor's John Godfrey's Fortune or Walt Whitman's The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle