Category Archives: Refugees

7 Poems That Every Radical Should Know

This selection of poems is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds of radical poems we could’ve included, but these are just a few of our favourites – we hope you’re inspired by them too!

  1. Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

Though this poem has become an absolute classic over the years, its radical pacifist message shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, few poems could be more relevant in today’s world. At this very moment, people’s lives are being ravaged and devastated by violence and war. Soldiers are killed and innocent civilians are slaughtered every day.

Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” is one of the few poems that truly encapsulates the real horrors of war. He begins with a description of soldiers marching through sludge until, nine lines in, the men are gassed and fumble about looking for their gas masks.

His carefully chosen words and ingenious use of rhythm bring to life the terror experienced by the men of the First World War. For example, his image of “someone still yelling out and stumbling, / And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…” is frighteningly vivid, testament to Owen’s skill as a writer and to the realism of his verse.

But Owen, having spent time in the trenches, realised that the realities of war are all too often ignored. Rather than focusing on the fearful nature of conflict and violence (evident in Owen’s description of blood “gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” and of “incurable sores on innocent tongues”), we tend to aestheticize and glorify the act of going to war.

We instill patriotic ardour into our people, and we present the death of young men as a sacrificial and heroic act. For Owen, though, war is not heroic, nor is it glorious. Indeed, it is precisely the opposite – a horrifying and terrible waste of young life.

So it is Owen’s own experiences of war that led him to see that Horace’s ode was wrong: it is not “Sweet and right to die for your country.” Rather, Horace’s aphorism is just an “old lie” perpetuated to accentuate the false necessity of war. That’s why this poem is so important for pacifists and radicals today.

  1. Jerusalem (And did those feet in ancient time) – William Blake

This is yet another classic poem, and you may think it an odd choice. Before I actually began to concentrate on Blake’s words, I imagined this was simply some patriotic and nationalistic call to arms. But the poem is actually far more than that. Continue reading

Calais, Lesbos, and the Refugee Crisis

The following post is a guest post by Tom Bailey, a 19-year-old literary and political blogger. He writes on a variety of topics from music to politics on his own blog, where he also publishes his poems. His Twitter handle is @TomBaileyBlog.

A couple of weeks ago, I was giving a speech at my old school about the refugee crisis and my time working in refugee camps. My speech was part of “Culture Week”, a school initiative designed to broaden the horizons of younger students, and the chosen theme for this year was migration.

I talked about how I’d decided to go to Calais when I saw that photo of Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless on the Turkish beach; how I’d worked alongside the charities Help Refugees and L’auberge des Migrants to deliver aid to the Calais Jungle; and how I’d later flown out to Lesbos and worked in Moria camp and on the shores of the Greek island as refugees crossed the threshold of Europe.

A picture of refugees lined up in Moria registration camp.

Refugees in Moria registration camp, taken by photographer and fellow volunteer Edward Jonkler.

One of the things that I said when I started my speech was that I didn’t want to focus on the politics of the situation. It’s easy to get carried away with questions of border policy and the social or economic viability of solutions. These are all important points that need to be considered when addressing a crisis like the one we currently face, but I felt that the talk would be most effective if I were to focus wholly on the human aspect of the situation. After all, I went to Calais and Lesbos for humanitarian reasons, not political ones. Continue reading