Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset
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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 protected]. 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...


But we don’t only want Militant Thistles to be defined by what it’s against: we also want it to serve as a kind of poetry petition: for a reintroduction of private rent controls; more social and council house building; the introduction of an authentic national living wage; a Robin Hood (Tobin) Tax; the reconstitution of university grants, EMAs and the Independent Living Fund; the renationalisation of all public services (most urgently, rail); a repealing of the NHS and Welfare ‘reforms’; the introduction of a Basic Citizen Income; and the scrapping of the bedroom tax, the scabrous Atos Work Capability Assessments, and reprehensible “homeless spikes”.


We’d like some of the poetry we publish here to dare to envision

a more socially just future for the country, every bit as much as we want and anticipate much polemical content paying poetic witness to current and oncoming discriminatory Tory policies and their catastrophic effects. Let’s dare to challenge and oppose, through poetry –which has in it the potential to be the mouthpiece of the people as it has been in times past– the received austerity narratives of government, media and establishment that are used as a daily ‘excuse’ for the most draconian social policies since the 1930s…


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, we must regroup and gather our energies for the political and cultural battles ahead...

'...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)



...that stretch their prickly arms afar,/ And to the ragged infant threaten war


...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

The Thistles...