Is Poetry Socialist?

A little while back, a friend and I sat enjoying a curry and a bottle of wine. At some point during our conversation my friend remarked on how poetry is, in some sense “socialist” or “left-wing”. At the time I said that I didn’t agree with his perspective, and our conversation moved on to other topics.

Rather than entering into an exposition of my own views on the above question, I would be interested in hearing those of my readers. Is poetry in some sense “Socialist” or “left-wing”? If so why?

Obviously there have been (and remain) Conservative poets (for example Philip Larkin). Likewise men such as W. H. Auden where of the left. However, leaving aside the fact that poets hold different political perspectives, is there some sense in which poetry appeals more to those on the left of politics? Or is the art form, in some sense profoundly Conservative with a big or a small c?

8 thoughts on “Is Poetry Socialist?

  1. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

    I think it depends on the views of the poet, and maybe also the person reading the poem.

    If the poet feels a particular way, the poem may clearly show their views. If the person reading it feels a certain way, they might read things they think are between the lines, whether those things are there or not.

    In other words, I think the answer to this question is another of those where it would be easier to examine it based on a spacific poem, or the work of a particular poet, since that’s the only way you can hope to answer the question. Even then you may not get a 100% clear answer.

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Tori. Certainly much poetry is open to interpretation and its fascinating how readers interpret the same poem in (sometimes) radically different ways. You are, I believe correct in your view that people can see in a poet’s work their own political perspective, irrespective of whether the poet is saying what he (the reader) interprets him as saying. Best – Kevin

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Chris. Some Beatniks where Conservative with a big C, for example Jack Karawak was, I believe of this mindset, while others held more left-wing/radical views. Best – Kevin

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Jack. “romantic notions” can come from both the left and the right can they not? For example Disraeli’s ideas of “one nation” in which an alliance between an enlightened aristocracy and the working class takes place is romantic Conservatism/Toryism. While, on the left William Morris’s role in the Arts and Crafts Movement (and, of course his poetry) stems from a romantic Socialism. Interestingly some “one nation” Tories may find themselves in sympathy with Morris’s distaste for the sameness of modernity (although their view of how to deal with socail and political issues does, of course differ to that of Morris). Best – Kevin

    2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Poetry doesn’t have to be political or to be considered as such. It is, as you say “words carefully considered”. To me it is also (at its best) beauty capable of reducing me to tears by the sheer magnificence of the language. Having said that some poetry is, obviously political. For instance the “Vicar of Bray” which satirises a priest (and by implication) all those who change their political beliefs to gain “preferment”. Again Beloc’s witty “On An Election” is obviously political albeit in a humorous way. The post was sparked (as I mention at it’s start) by a conversation with a friend. Best – Kevin


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