Poetry

Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio

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Michael Rosen’s latest collection of poetry for adults is wide ranging but at its heart displays a profound anti-racism and a fury at ruling class hypocrisy. In “Migration” he writes, “Our banks migrate billions/ but they don’t call that migration./ We say no to blaming migrants”.

For socialists who enjoy poetry this collection is an essential read for now, dealing as it does with some of our key political priorities including anti-racism, solidarity with refugees, Corbyn, privatisation and the attacks on education and the NHS.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

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“The time has come./ I begin/ the story of Lenin”. So opens Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s astonishing 3,000-line poem written shortly after Lenin’s death in 1924. The poem articulates the grief and shock of Lenin’s passing; “On the worker/ bent at his gears/ the news pounced/ and bullet-like burned”. It also pleads for Lenin not to be idolised: “I’m anxious lest rituals,/ mausoleums/ and processions,/ should/ obscure/ Lenin’s essential/ simplicity”.

Isaac and I: A Life In Poetry

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This is an autobiography of Chris Searle, who was inspired by poetry, especially by the East End (of London) poet Isaac Rosenberg. More than that, he inspired children, teenagers and working class men and women to write and recite them.

His secondary schooling didn’t start smoothly because he needed several attempts to get into grammar school. He was encouraged by his English teacher, whose choice of exciting class readers like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and plays, including Shakespeare, “opened up the heart of language within me that I had to dive into!”

A Blaze in a Desert

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A Blaze in a Desert is a slim volume of selected poems by Victor Serge. Serge was a revolutionary and writer who witnessed many of the great political highs and terrible lows in the first half of the 20th century.

He was inspired by the revolution and arrived in Russia in January 1919, shortly afterwards joining the Bolshevik Party. He consistently opposed Stalin and was exiled.

Paterson

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Paterson is a wonderfully gentle and gently amusing film. It is almost entirely without plot but that is no complaint. It has a rhythm to it, revolving around the daily routines of the protagonists — Paterson (Adam Driver), a poet and bus driver, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), his wife, and their dog, Marvin — and it has a lovely, deliberate, serene tone.

Dylan did not go gentle

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Dylan Thomas

The centenary of the birth of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is being marked by a host of events across Wales, including tours, art shows, film screenings, plays, lectures and poetry readings. The highlights include a Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea between 27 October and 9 November and exhibitions at Swansea Museum and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

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Paul O'Brien celebrates the life and poetry of Ireland's rebel poet.

Seamus Heaney was born in County Derry in 1939. He was perhaps the finest lyrical poet of his generation and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. He grew up in the deeply divided landscape of Northern Ireland where "the lines of sectarian antagonism and affiliation followed the boundaries of the land". He lived through the demise of the ancient rural world into which he was born, and the emergence of a globalised modern Ireland.

From Peterloo to Parkside

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Maxine Peake recently performed Shelley's The Masque of Anarchy to sell-out audiences. She talks to Socialist Review's Pat Carmody about the poem and her new radio play about a 1993 colliery occupation by miners' wives.


What attracted you to The Masque of Anarchy?

I got approached. I bumped into Alex Poots, who runs the Manchester International Festival, and he just said, "I want someone to read The Masque of Anarchy and then we want to do a discussion about protest and the future of protest in this country. Are you interested?"

Blake's Jerusalem

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Jerusalem, the song based on a poem by William Blake, is now the unofficial national anthem.

For Danny Boyle, on the left, Jerusalem created the opportunity to include industrial workers in the Olympic opening ceremony. For David Cameron, on the right, Jerusalem is an expression of distinctively English nationhood. For many ordinary people Jerusalem offers a welcome alternative to the depressing, jingoist dirge of God Save the Queen.

Jerusalem is open to many interpretations. William Blake was a complex character and his works can be difficult to read - but one thing Blake was not was a nationalist of any kind. He was a revolutionary.

Adrian Mitchell - 1932-2008

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There is always opposition to the dominant culture - sometimes hidden, sometimes out in the open: a radical cultural tradition that accompanies our struggles for a different society, to give shape and meaning to our desire for another way of hearing, of seeing, of feeling. I got this from many people as I was growing up, and the poet Adrian Mitchell was one of those people.

Everything stopped for a moment when I heard of his death on 21 December. In that instant I remembered all those times he stood before me, the poetry of love and life and anger and outrage filling whatever space he had come to perform in. I stood with him in the middle of Piccadilly on 15 February 2003 - speechless, as we felt 2 million human beings for peace and against war moving around us like a slow, wide river. Adrian was momentarily the rock midstream.

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