Full Moon at Tierz: Before The Storming of Huesca by John Cornford.
John Cornford from a relatively privileged families and attended Cambridge University. It was at Cambridge that he met and fell in love with Margot Heinemann and where they both joined the Communist Party. John’s mother, Frances Crofts Cornford, was a poet, and he himself was already writing poems at school.
After gaining a BA first-class honours in History, he became the first Englishman to enlist against Franco in the Spanish Civil War and was killed in battle on the Andujar and Cordoba Front on 27 or 28 December 1936.
Cornford wrote just a few poems in Spain, including A Letter from Aragon and the poem featured here Full Moon at Tierz: Before The Storming of Huesca.
Dr Christopher Murray Grieve, who wrote under the pen-name of Hugh Macdiarmid, was the greatest Scottish poet of the twentieth century. Best-known for what he called “Lallans”, a literary form of the Lowland Scots language that he developed, he also made use of English.
At different stages of his life he was a supporter of Scottish nationalism and communism. Famously, he stood for the Communist Party against Tory Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, in the Kinross & West Perthshire constituency in the 1964 general election, as part of an unsuccessful bid to get television time for the Party. His A Sprig of White Heather in the Future’s Lapel, written for former Communist MP Willie Gallacher on the occasion of the latter’s 80th birthday, is particularly famous among Britain’s Communists.
Here we feature Why I Choose Red, one of McDiarmid’s strongly political poems.
Vasko Popa was a Serbian poet of Romanian descent. Born in modern day Romania, Popa spent his life between Serbia and Romania studying in both Belgrade and Bucharest. His poetic life was often concerned with Socialist Realism, an artistic form which focuses primarily on celebrating socialist life or uplifting the role of ordinary folk in contrast to romantic ideas of aloof heroes and divinely given gifts.
Che Guevara was an Argentinean-born, Cuban revolutionary leader who alongside Fidel Castro goes down in history as one of the greatest figures of the Cuban Revolution and arguably the 20th Century. One of his portraits, from the lens of Alberto Korda, is one the world’s most reproduced images.
‘Du Ydwyf, ond Prydferth’ (Negro a fu’n cydweithio â ni am wythnos yn y carchar) ‘Niclas y Glais’ (1879-1971)
‘Black am I, but Beautiful’ (A Negro who worked with us in prison for a week) by TE Nicholas (1879-1971).
TE Nicholas ‘Niclas y Glais’, congregational minister, pacifist, champion of the disadvantaged, initially a member of the Independent Labour Party and then a founder member of the Communist Party, remaining in it till his death. Niclas was an internationalist who loved the Welsh language and the culture of the Welsh people. Writing almost entirely in Welsh, he won 17 eisteddfod chairs. In July 1940, during the Second World War, he and his son Islwyn were arrested on trumped-up charges of fascism during his 4-month imprisonment in Brixton, he wrote 150 sonnets, from which the following are selected. aWe present here the original Welsh and the English translation of his work side by side; the latter of course cannot capture the full expression of the former.
Pablo Neruda was a prominent Chilean Communist, as well as a Nobel prize-winning poet in both literature and peace (slightly more deserving than the current warmongering president of the US). Neruda played key roles in two Chilean governments and experienced the outlawing of Communism in 1948 and later became a close adviser to the Socialist President Salvador Allende only to die in hospital of cancer at the time of Pinochet’s US-backed coup.
Born in Bristol, Angela Tuckett became involved in progressive politics from an early age. She supported the Welsh contingent to the 1931 Hunger March, the League of Progressive Writers and Bristol’s Unity Theatre. In 1940, as a solicitor, she took charge of the legal department of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty). She joined the staff of the Daily Worker in 1942, then worked on Labour Monthly from 1948 to 1978. She was a member of the editorial committee of the William Morris Society, and with her husband Ike Gradwell worked tirelessly to build up the Swindon branch of the Communist Party. This poem uses metaphor to illustrate what the struggle is all about.
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.