Anarchist Poet Laureate?

June 22, 2010

In response to a comment on this post we penned this little ditty…

Malthus was an arse.
the rich are scum.
Let’s raise a glass:
‘To revolutions yet to come!’

Ok, it’s a bit crap, but it got us thinking about who should be the Anarchist Poet Laureate.

We reckon Shelley…

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Who would your choice be? 😉

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8 Responses to “Anarchist Poet Laureate?”

  1. Jonny said

    Shelley is a good choice. Most of his now sadly unread epics crackle with fiery liberty, prometheus unbound, the revolt of islam, Queen Mab…

    My choice would be William Blake. London, The Garden of Love and The Tyger are his most familiar visions, but I love the simple but extremely cynical ‘Infant Sorrow’, about how liberty is literally snuffed out of us at birth. Some of the language is archaic, but it still sizzles

    Infant Sorrow

    My mother groan’d! my father wept.
    Into the dangerous world I leapt:
    Helpless, naked, piping loud:
    Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

    Struggling in my father’s hands,
    Striving against my swadling bands,
    Bound and weary I thought best
    To sulk upon my mother’s breast.

    As for more modern poets, I’ll have to consider that one. There’s lots of radical affectation, but it’s just that. I’d say Scottish poet Tom Leonard has loads of fire, a great radical poet.

    Love you blog, I pop in fairly regularly for a read:-)

  2. The Fly, also from Songs of Innocence and Experience, is another under-appreciated classic…

    The Fly

    Little Fly,
    Thy summer’s play
    My thoughtless hand
    Has brushed away.

    Am not I
    A fly like thee?
    Or art not thou
    A man like me?

    For I dance
    And drink, and sing,
    Till some blind hand
    Shall brush my wing.

    If thought is life
    And strength and breath
    And the want
    Of thought is death;

    Then am I
    A happy fly,
    If I live,
    Or if I die.

    Our mate Warren says that William Blake is his religion and after a thumb through his copy of ‘The Complete Illuminated Books’ (Thames & Hudson, 2000) we can see what he means 🙂

  3. David said

    Wot are you talking about!

    I love your blog, but I’m sorry George Oppen is the ONLY anarcho-socialist poet ever worth considering.

    Here is a section from Of Being Numerous (1968)

    (Shelley is a Paul Foot Cunt in comparison)

    9

    ‘Whether, as the intensity of seeing increases, one’s distance from Them, the people, does not also increase’
    I know, of course I know, I can enter no other place

    Yet I am one of those who from nothing but man’s way of thought and one of his dialects and what has happened to me
    Have made poetry

    To dream of that beach
    For the sake of an instant in the eyes,

    The absolute singular

    The unearthly bonds
    Of the singular

    Which is the bright light of shipwreck

    25

    Strange that the youngest people I know
    Live in the oldest buildings

    Scattered about the city
    In the dark rooms
    Of the past—and the immigrants,

    The black
    Rectangular buildings
    Of the immigrants.

    They are the children of the middle class.

    ‘The pure products of America—’

    Investing
    The ancient buildings
    Jostle each other

    In the half-forgotten, that ponderous business.
    This Chinese Wall.

    26

    They carry nativeness
    To a conclusion
    In suicide.

    We want to defend
    Limitation
    And do not know how.

    Stupid to say merely
    That poets should not lead their lives
    Among poets,

    They have lost the metaphysical sense
    Of the future, they feel themselves
    The end of a chain

    Of lives, single lives
    And we know that lives
    Are single

    And cannot defend
    The metaphysic
    On which rest

    The boundaries
    Of our distances.
    We want to say

    ‘Common sense’
    And cannot. We stand on

    That denial
    Of death that paved the cities,
    Paved the cities

    Generation
    For generation and the pavement

    Is filthy as the corridors
    Of the police.

    How shall one know a generation, a new generation?
    Not by the dew on them! Where the earth is most torn
    And the wounds untended and the voices confused,
    There is the head of the moving column

    Who if they cannot find
    Their generation
    Wither in the infirmaries

    And the supply depots, supplying
    Irrelevant objects.
    Street lamps shine on the parked cars
    Steadily in the clear night

    It is true the great mineral silence
    Vibrates, hums, a process
    Completing itself

    In which the windshield wipers
    Of the cars are visible.

    The power of the mind, the
    Power and weight
    Of the mind which
    Is not enough, it is nothing
    And does nothing

    Against the natural world,
    Behemoth, white whale, beast
    They will say and less than beast,
    The fatal rock

    Which is the world—

    O if the streets
    Seem bright enough,
    Fold within fold
    Of residence …

  4. David said

    so blimmin’ true:

    How shall one know a generation, a new generation?
    Not by the dew on them! Where the earth is most torn
    And the wounds untended and the voices confused,
    There is the head of the moving column

    Who if they cannot find
    Their generation
    Wither in the infirmaries

    And the supply depots, supplying
    Irrelevant objects.

  5. “a Paul Foot Cunt”, a poetic phrase in itself! 😀

    Brilliant choice, but Oppen is far from the ‘only’ anarchist poet worth considering.

    For instance we have a soft-spot for late 18th/early 20th Century American Anarchists (Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, etc.). It may just be a sign of their pre-txt times, but they seem to be pretty good word-smiths as well as inspirational radicals – here’s Voltairine de Cleyre…

    The Road Builders

    (“Who built the beautiful roads?” queried a friend of the present order, as we walked one day along the macadamized driveway of Fairmount Park.)

    I saw them toiling in the blistering sun,
    Their dull, dark faces leaning toward the stone,
    Their knotted fingers grasping the rude tools,
    Their rounded shoulders narrowing in their chest,
    The sweat drops dripping in great painful beads.
    I saw one fall, his forehead on the rock,
    The helpless hand still clutching at the spade,
    The slack mouth full of earth.

    And he was dead.
    His comrades gently turned his face, until
    The fierce sun glittered hard upon his eyes,
    Wide open, staring at the cruel sky.
    The blood yet ran upon the jagged stone;
    But it was ended. He was quite, quite dead:
    Driven to death beneath the burning sun,
    Driven to death upon the road he built.

    He was no “hero”, he; a poor, black man,
    Taking “the will of God” and asking naught;
    Think of him thus, when next your horse’s feet
    Strike out the flint spark from the gleaming road;
    Think that for this, this common thing, The Road,
    A human creature died; ’tis a blood gift,
    To an o’erreaching world that does not thank.
    Ignorant, mean and soulless was he? Well,—
    Still human; and you drive upon his corpse.

    — Philadelphia, 24 July 1900

  6. A quick look at Ian Bone’s blog has just reminded us of another possible candidate, Renzo Novatore.

    This anarchist individualist outlaw was murdered by agents of the state at the tender age of 23, but he left us with his classic work – ‘Towards a Creative Nothing’, which can be downloaded here…

    http://www.anti-politics.net/distro/download/novatore-imposed.pdf

  7. Jonny said

    Lol Shelley A Paul Foot cunt, I guess that comes from Foot’s book Red Shelley.

    Don’t forget the paradoxical posh-boy Yorkshire anarchist Knight, Herbert Read. His essay Poetry And Anarchism is a sweet read. He’s almost forgotten as a poet, much of his his poetry is worthwhile, lots of imagist influences and reflections of the 1st world war, but he throws in the odd rabble rousing ditty.

    A Song For The Spanish Anarchists by Herbert Read

    The golden lemon is not made
    but grows on a green tree:
    A strong man and his crystal eyes
    is a man born free.

    The oxen pass under the yoke
    and the blind are led at will:
    But a man born free has a path of his own
    and a house on the hill.

    And men are men who till the land
    and woman are woman who weave:
    Fifty men own the lemon grove
    and no man is a slave.

  8. First Of The Gang To Die

    You have never been in love,
    Until you’ve seen the stars,
    reflect in the resevoirs

    And you have never been in love,
    Until you’ve seen the dawn rise,
    behind the home for the blind

    We are the pretty petty thieves,
    And you’re standing on our street..

    …where Hector was the first of the gang
    with a gun in his hand
    and the first to do time
    the first of the gang to die. Oh my.
    Hector was the first of the gang
    with a gun in his hand
    and the first to do time
    the first of the gang to die. Oh my.

    You have never been in love,
    Until you’ve seen the sunlight thrown
    over smashed human bones

    We are the pretty petty thieves,
    And you’re standing on our street..

    …where Hector was the first of the gang
    with a gun in his hand
    and the first to do time
    the first of the gang to die. Such a silly boy.
    Hector was the first of the gang
    with a gun in his hand
    and a bullet in his gullet
    and the first lost lad to go under the sod.

    And he stole from the rich and the poor
    and the not-very-rich and the very poor
    and he stole all hearts away
    he stole all hearts away
    he stole all hearts away
    he stole all hearts away

    Morrissey

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