Thursday, April 26, 2012



It seems amazing to me that in the 400 plus pages of Brecht's Collected Poetry, the English translation edition entitled "Poems 1913-1956" (Methuen, 1976), religion is so infrequently addressed or barely even mentioned in passing.  "The Tailor of Ulm, 1592" (from '5 Childrens Songs', 1934, is the only pure example I could find poring through its pages— I may have missed some things, but obviously for the Marxist Brecht, or at least in his verse, exposing the oppressive policies of the Church was not a priority. Poems protesting against the Fascist takeover of his own country and all of Europe, yes, there are many of those. But the Vatican's political and financial support of those Fascist coups, with Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain, its Concordat with Hitler, its refusal during WWII to condemn the Holocaust, and after the war its concealing and convoying of Nazi war criminals to safety? Not a word.

Sadly, this seems the same with many other Socialist poets of the 20th Century. Look at "The Penguin Book of Socialist Verse": there's almost no overtly anti-religious poetry in it.  I could only find 2 or at the most 3 examples—


take "Red Sky at Night: an anthology of British socialist poetry"—editors Andy Croft/Adrian Mitchell, published in 2003 by Five Leaves Publications— again, I can't find a single anti-religious poem in its 300 bloody pages. Lots of admirable agita about dictators and plutocrats and war and Hiroshima and Warsaw Ghetto and Chile Allende and Mrs Thatcher and fascist sprats in general and specific, but not a peep raised in protest against the Church which supports all these Hitlers and Pinochets and Thatchers and militaryindustrial oligarchies, the Church which justifies every pogrom of oppression the Uberstate seeks to impose on its slave populations. The Church which, as Marx summarized religion, is a dope pusher, forcing its opiates of ignorance and prejudice down the throats of the common people, drugging them into obscene stupors of 'savage servility' (Robert Lowell's phrase) and suicidal submission.

Fascism, Capitalism, Racism, Sexism, et al:— poets seem to be willing to protest those evils and their representatives.  But the clergy, religion, no.  Church and State: poets will write poems against the iniquities of the latter, but the former gets a free pass.

And contemporary USA poets?—

In theory USA public officials are free to be nonreligionist, but in practice almost none are; and USA poets, are they similarly "free"?

Don't take my word for it, take amazon's: type in "religious poetry" you get 21, 915 results; "atheist poetry" brings 44 results.

Almost 22 thousand versus less than fifty. Roughly 500 to 1. 

Those are your odds, contemporary USApoet: 500 to 1.

A democracy in theory, a theocracy in practice: USA public officials are free to be atheist, but none choose to be, which is their democratic right, they freely choose to not be atheist, 

just as USApoets freely choose to not write atheist verse 500 to 1. 

Everybody's free!  USA!

So if you choose (500 to one) to write religious poems (500 to one) you're making a free (500 to one) choice, aren't you?   You're free to write religious verse 500 to one, aren't you?   Of course you are.    Free.   You're making a free choice in a free society, aren't you?   Just like those politicians.

And all those poets in the 02/12 issue of Po(Chi)Mag, they're all freely choosing to pontificate their 'spiritual' poetry theories, they're all freely choosing to not write atheist verse, aren't they?   Free. 

They're free, I'm free, you're free.