by George J. Dance


Joseph Kalar (1906-1972) in 1929. Courtesy Modern American Poetry.

Joseph Kalar (1906-1972) was an American poet.[1]


Kalar was born in Merritt, Minnesota, to Slovenian immigrants. His father worked in the mines of the Iron Range. In 1914 the family moved to International Falls, Minnesota, and Kalar found work in a paper mill.[1] Kalar studied at Bemidji Teachers College and taught elementary school for a year, and then wandered the country as a hobo.[1]

Kalar returned to International Falls in 1926, and found work in the paper mill where his father worked.[1] His father died when Joseph Kalar was 23, and he became responsible for supporting his younger siblings.[2]

The mill shut down in 1930, and Kalar found work in his brother's insurance business.[1]

He wrote poetry in his spare time, which was published in Anvil, The Daily Worker, Left, Morada, New Masses, The Rebel Poet, and international journals like Red Flag, International Literature, and Literature of the World Revolution.[3]

Kalar stopped writing in 1935. He later worked as a salesman in Minneapolis.He died unexpectedly in 1972.[1]


Max Eastman called Kalar's poem "Papermill" “the rarest jewel so-far produced by the ferment in America called proletarian poetry — and it is pure art.”[1]

Robert Bly said of the poetry in Kalar's posthumous volume, Papermill: "Joseph Kalar gives a better sense in these few pages of the mood and suffering of the Depression era than much longer books. Moreover, his work has the joy of playfulness and the imagination. The pieces in prose are genuine prose poems, written long before such a poem was imagined in the U.S. and they are superb.”[1]


  • We Gather Strength (by Herman Spector, Joseph Kalar, Edwin Rolfe, Sol Funaroff, & Michael Gold). New York: Liberal Press, 1933.
  • Poet of Protest. privately printed [1960s].[1]
  • Papermill: Poems, 1927 - 1935 (edited by Ted Genoways). University of Illinois Press, 2006.
  • Poet of Protest: Joseph Kalar: An anthology (edited by Richard G. Kalar). Blaine, MN: RGK Publications, 1985.


  • Proletarian Literature in the United States: An anthology (edited by Granville Hicks, Joseph North, Paul Peters, Isidor Schneider, & Alan Calmer; introduction by Joseph Freeman). International Publishers, New York 1935.
  • Writers in Revolt: The Anvil anthology (edited by Jack Conroy & Curt Johnson). New York: L. Hill, 1973.
  • Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry (edited by Cary Nelson). New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.[4]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "Acclaimed Depression era writing of Joseph Kalar part of Falls history," International Falls Journal, Jan. 10, 2007, Web, Jan. 11, 2012.
  2. Stephanie Hemphill, "Joseph Kalar's poems re-emerge from the Depression," MPR News, Minnesota Public Radio, Web, Jan. 11, 2012.
  3. Walter Kalaidjian, "About Joseph Kalar," Modern American Poetry, University of Illinois,, Web, Jan. 11, 2012.
  4. "Papermill," Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry,, Web, Jan. 11, 2012.
  5. Search results = au:Joseph Kalar, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 14, 2014.

External linksEdit

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