Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Bolshevik revolutionary and came to be one of the most celebrated communist poets in the Soviet Union and internationally. He was also a talented playwright, artist and actor who used art as a medium to convey the politics and ideals of the new socialist state.
Christopher Caudwell was a Communist Party member, poet and influential Marxist thinker.
Born into a relatively well to do Catholic family, Caudwell worked as a journalist before working on Marxist critiques on a variety of subjects from poetry to his book The Crisis in Physics.
Like many of his contemporaries, such as John Cornford, Caudwell volunteered for the International Brigades in Spain. Caudwell was killed in the fighting on the first day of the Battle of Jarama, 12th February 1937
Much of his work was published posthumously including his best known book Illusion and Reality.
Mao Tse-Tung is a man who needs little introduction, especially to members of the Young Communist League. However, despite being a remarkable leader and philosopher, his poetry is often overlooked. This is partly because many pass it off as ‘poetic politics’, namely just a fruity disguise of his politics. Others simply ignore it because he was ‘authoritarian’, so they would not demean themselves by pandering to it.
Adrian Mitchell, 1932 – 2008, first performed his stirring denunciation of the Vietnam War, To Whom It May Concern (Tell me lies about Vietnam), at an anti war protest in Trafalgar Square, London, in 1964.
This video features a performance on 11 June 1965 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, at the height of the Vietnam War.
As well as being the anti-colonial and revolutionary leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was also a keen poet. Here we feature some of the poems wrote by Ho Chi Minh during a long period of imprisonment.
In 1942, at age 52, Ho Chi Minh was arrested in South China, accused of being a spy by Nationalist forces. For fourteen months, bound in leg irons, he was shifted from jail to jail. Throughout he kept a diary written in poetry. The following poems are a selection of poems from Ho Chi Minh’s Prison Diary.
Robert (or Rabbie) burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, on 25 January 1759. Burns was born to tenant farming parents, initially had very little formal education and worked as a farm labourer from a young age.
Burns drew much from what little patchy education he did receive but continued to work a variety of manual jobs. Burns’s father was unfortunate in farming and the family moved often, compelled by poverty and hardship.
César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza was a Peruvian poet, writer, playwright, and journalist. Born the 11th child to parents who were both of mixed Spanish and Quechua Native origins, Vallejo as a child witnessed at first hand hunger and poverty and the injustices done to the indigenous peoples of the region.
Vallejo attended the University of Trujillo, where he studied both law and literature, writing a thesis entitled El romanticismo en la poesía castellana (“Romanticism in Castilian Poetry”; published 1954).
Although he published only three books of poetry during his lifetime, he is considered one of the great poetic innovators of the 20th century in any language. He was always a step ahead of literary currents, and each of his books was distinct from the others, and, in its own sense, revolutionary.
As part of the celebrations around the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, Challenge’s Poetry Corner will be featuring a selection of poems from across the world, inspired by the war and its events.
Here we feature Stalingrad written by Peter Blackman.