Review

Collected Poems, Christopher Caudwell / 1986 / $12.50 (paper) / 180 pages / Carcenet, 209-212 Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3BQ, Great Britain

Here is the greatest single weapon against those detractors of Caudwell—on the right as well as on the left—who allege that his knowledge of literature is superficial, and therefore his theories are of limited value. Obviously, these detractors are either afraid or unable to take a long, serious and critical look at exactly what Caudwell was able to accomplish in his poetry. These are the poems of a true craftsman. Caudwell’s skill with language and his intimate knowledge of the craft of poetry is the first thing that strikes the reader. These are the poems of an individual who has studied his masters long and hard, who writes with a solid knowledge of the English language and proceeds from that tradition with a voice distinctly his own. In “Essay on Freewill” he writes:

Our deeds are broken horns of glass
Cast on the cold Atlantic shores
Where the indifferent breakers pass
Write your revenge on the white doors
The white huts of a leisured class.

And Newton in his spider’s den
Forsaking the delights of love
Is broken broken City men
Haunt the deserted temple grove
And strike the hours upon Big Ben.

Caudwell died at the age of 29, fighting fascists during the Spanish civil war. His early death, it goes without saying, is the most tragic single blow to the development of proletarian culture. Collected Poems is mandatory reading for everyone on the left. Read also his Illusion and Reality, Studies in a Dying Culture and Further Studies In A Dying Culture. Caudwell’s work will be discussed on a regular basis in SA.


SOURCE: Review: Christopher Caudwell, Collected Poems; Subversive Agent, no. 2, 1989, pp. 58-59.


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