The author and "Poet Laureate of Harlem" quit Columbia University in 1922, broke with his father, and worked a season growing onions and other vegetables on the Criaris farm on Richmond Avenue, New Springville, Staten Island.
He remembers "There was something about such work that made you feel important . . . seeing [the onions] go off to feed the great city of New York. Your onions!" He slept in the barn on a pile of hay and visited Port Richmond during his free time. His experiences on Staten Island are recounted in his autobiography The Big Sea (1940). Poems written around this time include "After Many Springs," which is probably about the Staten Island farm and "Beggar Boy." (Text courtesy of the New York Public Library, "Famous Islanders.")