Sol Funaroff was like a drowning man who lifts a guiding light for others while he sinks. In the midst of his own desperate struggle, he turned from the shore, remembering others. The promise of his life was drowned by the Great Depression of the 1930's. Yet despite his struggle for a bare existence he strained his meager physical and financial resources to bring the poets whose themes concerned labor, to the labor audience.
His effort resulted in pushing other poets forward even when his own poetry suffered. He was editor of the Franklin K. Lane High School magazine in 1929; of the National Student League's College Student Review in 1932; poetry editor of the New Masses in 1933; of We Gather Strength in 1933; of Dynamo, a Journal of Poetry in 1935; of Partisan Review in 1934; associate editor of New Theatre Magazine in 1936; and editor of various selections of poetry for the New Republic and the New Masses in 1934, 1937 and 1938. Finally, as editor and publisher of the Dynamo series, and as editor of American Writing in 1940, he published--in several instances introduced for the first time--the work of the following writers:
Joseph Kalar, Herman Spector, Edwin Rolfe, Kenneth Fearing, Sidney Alexander, Hans Otto Storm, Eugene Joffe, Norman McLeod, B. H. Scheiffer, Ralph Ellison, Robert Friend, Joy Davidman, Raphael Hayes, A. T. Rosen, David Greenhood, Ben Field, Ruth Lechlitner, Horace Gregory, H. M. Chevalier, Stanley Burnshaw, James T. Farrell, Isadore Schneider, William Pillin, C. Day Lewis, Muriel Rukeyser, Hector Rella, Ben Maddow, W. H. Auden, Orrick Johns, Andre Spire, Langston Hughes, Willard Maas, David Wolff, James Neugass, Jacques Romain, Alfred Hayes and others.
His own poems and writings were often signed by pen names: Charles Henry Newman, Steve Foster, and Sil Vnarov. His poems appeared in Poetry, a Magazine of Verse; Scribner’s Pagany, Nativity, Left and elsewhere. His writing can be found in standard anthologies and college text-books: A Quarto of Modern Literature, edited by Leonard Brown (Scribner's); An Anthology of Proletarian Literature (International Publishers); An American Sketch Book (Macmillan); A New Anthology of Modern Poetry edited by Selden Rodman (Random House), and This Generation, edited by Eda Lou Walton (Scott, Foresman & Co.). He was founder and guiding spirit of the Dynamo school of modern poets, which included Kenneth Fearing, Muriel Rukeyser, Edwin Rolfe, Alfred Hayes, and others.
His main literary effort and aim throughout his life was to bring the new socially conscious poets together with their great labor audience. To this end he tried not only the usual means, but developed, adapted and fostered new means of expression--radio, voice recordings, sound film, dance, drama, and music. All this with the great audience of labor's millions in mind.
Economically he remained until death, below the bare subsistence level. Any little extra money he spent on books--philosophical, historical, political and economic as well as literary volumes. He often went hungry in order to take advantage of special bargains at Macy's and Gimbel's book sales.
He managed to accumulate a large library, in addition to large files of clippings, articles and magazines. These he read voraciously, marking them with marginal notes from cover to cover.
His penniless refugee family was chased and badgered from country to country in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. His was a hungry infancy. The family came to New York’s East Side, and so his childhood was a tenement childhood. Hunger, poverty and illness were his daily experience. But he fought to live. Against a doctor's advice he climbed factory stairs in New York's garment district with his brother, selling ice cream, candy and fruit to the workers. He worked in a matzoth factory, in an upholstery shop at starvation wages. Searching the job-void depression continuously for work, he got occasionally short-lived assignments as a reporter for the New York World, City News Service and Federated Press; and he did some editorial work for the New Republic, Scribner’s, New Theatre and New Masses magazines. He never "got a toe-hold on a real solid writing job," to use the phrase of his desire and need. He remained in the lowest third of the ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clad people about whom he wrote. Home Relief and W.PA. writing jobs were a temporary help only.
One marvels that in spite of all this he was able to sandwich in all his literary and dramatic accomplishments. He lived to double his medically fixed life. He lived to stimulate and help many others; he left behind him much work unpublished. Now, if he were alive, with some recognition of his value in the minds and hearts of a growing audience, he perhaps could have gained the "toehold" he so much wanted. But unfortunately his good breaks always came too late.