anticommunism

1970s sighting of a 1930s communist poet

Eve Merriam on the front cover of "The Pennsylvania Gazette" in 1978

When writing my books Modernism from Right to Left and Counter-Revolution of the Word: the Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-60, I spent a great deal of time studying poets who in the 1930s had joined CPUSA and/or were attracted to the communist movement. And who, I should add, were shunned and even explicitly red-baited in the 1950s.

Poetry leader to Joe McCarthy: 'Good job!'

I wrote this commentary post back on September 27, 2007 and I thought I would reprise it now:

There’s a story on the front page of the arts section of today's New York Times that begins by the usual condescending reference to "[t]he cloistered community of American poetry." After that, the lead is: “The board of the 97-year-old Poetry Society of America, whose members have included many of the most august names in verse, has been rocked by a string of resignations and accusations of McCarthyism, conservatism, and simple bad management.” (And there's "august": is that word ever used unironically any more? Made more ironic here by its being rocked by "rocked.")

I wrote this commentary post back on September 27, 2007 and I thought I would reprise it now:

There’s a story on the front page of the arts section of today's New York Times that begins by the usual condescending reference to "[t]he cloistered community of American poetry." After that, the lead is: “The board of the 97-year-old Poetry Society of America, whose members have included many of the most august names in verse, has been rocked by a string of resignations and accusations of McCarthyism, conservatism, and simple bad management.” (And there's "august": is that word ever used unironically any more? Made more ironic here by its being rocked by "rocked.")

The story is: the conservative orientation — conservative in the sense of aesthetically cautious, and conservative (here and there) in the sense of right-of-center political views — of the PSA led to an award given to John Hollander, which led to resignations, which led to interest at the Times. Here's the whole article.

Interview: Modernist poetry & the cold war

C. Derick Varn interviewed me recently. Here is a link.

Modern art as communist subversion

In January 1957, a man named Arthur B. McQuern, describing himself as a retired Iowa farmer then living in "this artist town on the west coast"--Laguna Beach, California--writes to express indignation against the modern art on display there. McQuern was especially incensed by a recent exhibit, which caused him to write an essay he mailed to Congressman George A. Dondero. Here is a small portion of that essay:

"...the essence of the 'modern' doctrine apparently is to believe in nothing...The idol adopted by the modernist writers is a twentieth-century hybrid character which is made to appear as being neither good nor bad...The ultra-modernist is unconcerned with beauty and truth...By a standard of ethics peculiar to the 'moderns' truth has no stability or positive purpose but to them is only a point of view shifting and drifting with the tide of sentiment...In both literature and art a contemptible disregard for reality...."

Allen Ginsberg's FBI file

Here is Herbert Mitgang's summary of Allen Ginsberg's FBI file:

Ginsberg engaged the attention of the FBI recordkeepers. "I have a stack of documents three feet high," the . . . poet said, and showed me a sampling of them. He has devoted much of his time to challenging the government on issues of privacy and personal freedom - including sexual preference - and arousing his fellow writers to campaign for freedom of expression.

Ginsberg recently told me that Pacifica Radio, the group of radio stations that airs public events, contemporary verse, drama and other literature, may no longer broadcast much of his poetry, including the well known Howl and Kaddish. Under the Reagan administration's policy of destroying the power to regulate of the regulatory agencies, the weakened Federal Communications Commission has carried out Attorney General Meese's diktat against "obscenity" and "indecency." The final report of the Meese Commission on Pornography is a legacy for book censors and book burners that could affect authors, editors and elements of the publishing community for a long time to come.

Ginsberg said that some of the papers in his file come from related customs and Treasury Department investigative bureaus. His file crisscrosses those of other writers. "They include Leroi Jones, who was the victim of much more attack than people understand and, in that context, his anger is understandable," Ginsberg said. "Most people don't realize what he and other black literati have been through, assuming that all past injustices have been redressed or somehow disappeared out of mind. The waste remains, the waste remains and kills. The section on Tom Hayden in Newark intersects with Jones, since Jones was influenced by an FBI misinformation campaign to denounce Hayden as an [FBI] agent and drive him out of Newark. The section on Black United Front and Ann Arbor intersects with John Sinclair, poet director of Detroit Artists Workshop, a multiracial press that is one of my publishers."

New Review of "Counter-Revolution of the Word"

In "Modernism/Modernity"

Adam Piette of the University of Sheffield has published a review of my Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry in the recent issue of Modernism/Modernity. Here is a PDF copy of the review.

Modern Poetry & Anti-Communism

An Essay-Length Primer

I've now made my essay "Modern Poetry and Anticommunism" available through Selected Works. Citation: Alan Filreis. "Modern Poetry and Anticommunism." A Concise Companion to Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Ed. Stephen Fredman. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2005. 173-190.

New Review of "Counter-Revolution of the Word"

I'm delighted by a review of my book, Counter-Revolution of the Word, which has just now come to my attention. Here [PDF] is a link. The relevant pages begin on page 922.

Bill of Rights in the 1950s

It's some kind of communist plot

"No doubt all of you recall the incident in Madison, Wisconsin, last Fourth of July, when American citizens were afraid to say they believed in the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. One hundred and twelve people were asked to sign a petition that contained nothing except quotations from these two immortal documents, and one hundred and eleven refused to sign the paper. Most refused because they were afraid it was some kind of subversive document and thought that if they signed it they would be called Communists." - JAZZES H.

they have the routine of the Indians and the colored folks

From a column by I. F. Stone publisehd in the Nation magazine on November 8, 1947, at the time of the anticommunist HUAC/"Hollywood Ten" hearings:

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