This item is taken from Stand 227, 18(3) September - November 2020.

In 1973, Jon Silkin published an anthology of Stand poets called Poetry of the Committed Individual. In it, he included nearly sixty writers from across the globe (many of them in translation), selecting what he believed to be an illustrative community of ‘committed individuals’ – a group of twentieth-century poets who represented the international identity of the magazine and whose work embodied what it meant to take a ‘Stand’ in poetry; to produce politically and socially committed writing that stood firmly and actively against injustice and inequality. Many of the poets in the anthology had themselves escaped repressive regimes and genocide. Some hadn’t managed to get out. All of them bore witness to history. All looked outwards to the community that included and went beyond individual experience.

Silkin himself was a committed individual – as both poet and editor – and Stand was founded on the principles of an inclusivity of experience, a determinedly internationalist perspective, and a diversity of voices. As he wrote in the manifesto that formed the introduction to the anthology:

The quicker and more thoroughly we learn, in however limited a way, something of what the sensuous powers and moral entrapments feel like in Iowa, Teesside or Prague (quite apart from what Amman, Jaffa, and Hanoi can tell us) the more insistently can our preparations be made for a continuingly vigorous and changing culture. (21)

Silkin sought change throughout his life. And he believed that poetry and literature had a crucial part to play in making it happen. But the ...
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