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This article is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

History & Change Alan Munton

WHEN WE read poems of any force there is a moment of resistance when we try to reject the demands the poem makes on us. In the case of poetry written by socialists this resistance may be stronger because the reader has to make a double response, to admit not only a way of feeling but a way of relating to other people. Such poetry makes a double interrogation, both socially and individually. This is one reason why political poetry is distinctive; it asks "Where do you stand?" as much as "What do you feel?", and may press for an answer to the first question which can be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the area of freedom claimed by socialist thought is one in which the imagination can work as vigorously as it does when no such proposals are being made. But the politically committed poet is in exactly the same position as any other when it comes to finding an image that will successfully embody what he wants to say; he must write with as much indirection as any lyricist. Both A. L. Morton and Jeffrey Wainwright write as socialists and both face the problem of finding appropriate images.

A. L. Morton has been a member of the Communist Party since the 1920s. He worked with A. S. Neill at Summerhill, and during the 1930s wrote not only for the Daily Worker (as he continued to do for decades) and Left Review, but, interestingly, for T. S. Eliot's Criterion ...


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