Verse

James Connolly's The Legacy

Come here my son, and for a time put up your childish play,
Draw nearer to your father’s bed, and lay your games away.
No sick man’s ’plaint is this of mine, ill-tempered at your noise,

James Connolly's The Legacy: The Dying Socialist to His Son is a powerful exposition in verse of the socialist view of working people throughout history.

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Take Back Control

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Attila the Stockbroker

Janine Booth’s pick of news-related poetry is this by Attila the Stockbroker.


You tell me how you’ve suffered since the closure.
I see the pain and sadness in your eyes.
I feel your anger at our country’s leaders
Who offer only platitudes and lies.
At gigs I hear so many of these stories.
All different, but the message is the same.
You’re sick to death of scheming politicians.
No longer going to play their poxy game.

News-related poetry by Attila the Stockbroker.

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21 October 1966

Author: 

Janine Booth

A villanelle about the Aberfan coal mining disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed.

There was a lot of anger at the National Coal Board for its neglect of safety, and at the inquest, one father insisted: "I want it recorded — ‘Buried alive by the National Coal Board’. That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate."

A villanelle about the Aberfan coal mining disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed.

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Grass

Author: 

Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and
Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work.
I am the grass. I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg,
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and people on
passenger trains ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now ?

I am the grass. Let me work.

Grass by Carl Sandburg.

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Government

Author: 

Carl Sandburg

The Government—I heard about the Government and
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
it when I saw it.

Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to the
calaboose. It was the Government in action.

I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
this was the Government, doing things.

Government by Carl Sandburg.

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Challenging the nationalist narrative

Author: 

Janine Booth

From its declaration of war in 1914, Britain’s ruling class appealed to patriotism to boost its support and its military recruitment. By 1916 both were flagging. On the pages of socialist newspaper The Herald, poets used verse to question both nationalism and the war’s aims. When the government asked men to fight for King and Country, was it shielding its true motives?

From its declaration of war in 1914, Britain’s ruling class appealed to patriotism to boost its support and its military recruitment. By 1916 both were flagging. On the pages of socialist newspaper The Herald, poets used verse to question both nationalism and the war’s aims

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The last speech of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco

This is the famous last speech of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the class-war prisoner who, alongside Nicola Sacco, both of them anarchists, died in the electric chair in August 1927, framed by the US authorities. This speech, despite its broken English, is so beautiful and moving that it falls naturally into verse form. No-one has ever expressed more splendidly and with such stirring, simple language the aspirations and hopes of all those who fight for a better world. Once read, these words form part of every socialist’s heritage.

This is the famous last speech of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the class-war prisoner who, alongside Nicola Sacco, both of them anarchists, died in the electric chair in August 1927, framed by the US authorities. This speech, despite its broken English, is so beautiful and moving that it falls naturally into verse form. No-one has ever expressed more splendidly and with such stirring, simple language the aspirations and hopes of all those who fight for a better world. Once read, these words form part of every socialist’s heritage. This typographical arrangement of Vanzetti’s speech first appeared in Labor Action, an American socialist weekly.

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Verses from the First World War: Conscientious Objectors

Author: 

Janine Booth

Once the Military Service Act come into force in 1916, men aged 18-41 had to apply to a Military Tribunal if they believed that they had a reason not to be drafted. The majority had health, work or family reasons, but 2% were Conscientious Objectors (COs): men who objected to military service because they objected to war.

Once the Military Service Act come into force in 1916, men aged 18-41 had to apply to a Military Tribunal if they believed that they had a reason not to be drafted. The majority had health, work or family reasons, but 2% were Conscientious Objectors (COs): men who objected to military service because they objected to war.

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Verses from the First World War: conscription

Author: 

Janine Booth

One hundred years ago this week, conscription came into force in Britain. The Military Service Act placed men between 18 and 41 years of age into the army reserve unless they were married (this exemption was removed later in 1916), widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in a “reserved occupation”. The initial rush of volunteers had dried up by this time, and while poverty continued to make signing up as a soldier an attractive option for some men, recruits were being killed at a faster rate than they could be replaced.

One hundred years ago this week, conscription came into force in Britain.

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Verses from the First World War: poets against profiteering

Author: 

Janine Booth

As the First World War progressed, working-class people became more aware, and resentful, of those profiteering from their suffering. While men were wounded and died in the trenches, and men, women and children at home suffered appalling poverty, capitalists saw the war as an opportunity to make money. Poets addressed this with anger, mockery and wit. The three poems here were all published by anti-war labour movement newspaper The Herald a century ago in 1916.

As the First World War progressed, working-class people became more aware, and resentful, of those profiteering from their suffering. While men were wounded and died in the trenches, and men, women and children at home suffered appalling poverty, capitalists saw the war as an opportunity to make money. Poets addressed this with anger, mockery and wit. The three poems here were all published by anti-war labour movement newspaper The Herald a century ago in 1916.

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