'...Let the “thin harvest” be the achievement of young authors, the “wither’d ears” their books, then the “militant thistles” represent politics...'
Cyril Connolly, Chapter X The Blighted Rye, Enemies of Promise (1938)
'AT THE MOMENT, THE THISTLES
...if we look at writers through the ages we see that they have always been political. ...To deny politics to a writer is to deny him part of his humanity. But even from a list of political writers we can deduce that there are periods …when writers are more political... Writers can still change history by their pleading, and one who is not political neglects the vital intellectual issues of his time and disdains his material... By ignoring the present he condones the future. He has to be political to integrate himself and he must go on being political to protect himself... Capitalism in decline, as in our own country, is not much wiser as a patron than fascism. Stagnation, fear, violence and opportunism, the characteristics of capitalism preparing for the fray, are no background for a writer and there is a seediness, an ebb of life, a philosophy of taking rather than giving, a bitterness and brutality about right-wing writers now which was absent in those of other days...'
Cyril Connolly, Chapter XII 'The Thistles', Enemies of Promise, 1938
Militant Thistles is the new sister site to The Recusant, and is specifically here to publish politically topical poems of a left-wing/socialist persuasion in oppositional response to the policies of "permanent austerity". We 'Thistles' aim to be permanent thorns in the sides of Tories and establishment torch-carriers alike... Send us your poems touching on such common themes and memes as poor doors, homeless spikes, bedroom taxes, Atos, food banks, pop-up soup kitchens, anti-squatting laws, "gentrification", Generation Rent, and red-top and blue-torch-promulgated anti-welfarism ('scroungerology' as we coin it), and we will consider them for inclusion. Send poems in the body of the email to: email@example.com. Put 'Militant Thistles' in the header.
Militant Thistles is an exclusively online project which will continue in the spirit of The Recusant/ Caparison's two pioneering anti-austerity poetry anthologies, Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (2010/11) and The Robin Hood Book - Verse Versus Austerity (2011/12).
The term 'militant thistles' is taken from Cyril Connolly, who himself lifted the phrase from George Crabbe's 'covert pastoral' (see William Empson) poem 'The Heath'; Connolly used the phrase as a metaphorical motif for 'political writers', and, in part, meant it thornily. Our use of the phrase is intended to be a little more optimistic as to the imperative of political poetry, and polemic, especially in this, the decade socially, economically and politically twinned with the 1930s, the tail-end of which was Connolly's own time of writing...
Update 2020: Now in the aftermath of defeat in the December 'Brexit' election, partly made inevitable by the Establishment and media smearing Jeremy Corbyn to such a degree that it was almost impossible for Labour to win, and the nightmare of a Tory majority, and now, the Covid-19 pandemic, we must regroup and gather our energies for the political and cultural battles ahead...