e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Poetry goes political

Two shortlisted poets have pulled out of the T S Eliot prize because the sponsor is an investment firm and hence rampantly capitalist.

The prize money comes from the Eliot family, but the administration costs don’t. Until now the Poetry Book Society has used money from the Arts Council, but that’s gone with the cuts and they’ve had to seek support elsewhere.

There’s a long history of people in the arts supporting left-wing causes and making relevant protests. Most of the publicity has gone to actors: I can recall Marlon Brando refusing an award, and Jane Fonda making her mark as an activist. There have been many others.

There have also been a few right-wing actors – John Wayne and Charlton Heston spring most readily to my mind. During their careers they often played right-wing roles.

Thinking about this made me wonder about the relationship between an actor’s opinions and the roles played. Did Wayne et al start out on the right and choose parts accordingly, or were their political opinions formed by the films they made?

I know of no research into this relationship. Are actors changed by what they play? Are they aware of it? Does the current script cancel out the effects of the last one? Would a year spent playing Hamlet make one mad?

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4 thoughts on “Poetry goes political

  1. My guess would be that the political leanings came first and led the actors to choose the roles they played.

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  2. Hm. The two poets can’t post on the internet. It’s capitalism that drives all blogsites and all the technology they’d have to use. They can’t publish. Those nasty publishers are trying to make money. I guess they can stand on a street corner, recite, and hold out a tin cup. 🙂 Capitalism isn’t a dirty word. It’s what has made the U.S. a great nation.

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    • Thank you for your comment. You have some valid points. As you say, most businesses are trying to make money.

      I suspect that the poets concerned make a distinction between trading in goods and services to make a profit, as do the publishers, and trading in the money market. Right now banks and related organisations seem to be unpopular with a lot of people who have no problem with other businesses and who normally take no interest in the financial sector.

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