Thursday, April 16, 2015

BLACKLISTED - Thomas McGrath

I recently read Sara Paretsky's Blacklist, in which she treats incidents that seem to some of us like ancient history. To others though, they are still ever present. It was then I decided to take on blacklisted writers for National Poetry month, not an easy task.
"After 10 actors refused to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the blacklist was created. Hundreds of actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters and other entertainment professionals were barred from working."
 Obviously, some fared better than others, but all suffered under the inquisition known as the "red scare." No more than 10% of those blacklisted ever returned to their vocations.

Thomas McGrath was one of the lucky ones. He was dismissed from his position at at Los Angeles State College, in connection with his appearance, as an unfriendly witness, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. He recovered and went on to write 20 books of poetry and fiction.

All the Dead Soldiers
In the chill rains of the early winter I hear something—
A puling anger, a cold wind stiffened by flying bone—
Out of the north ...
                               and remember, then, what’s up there:
That ghost-bank: home: Amchitka: boot hill ....

They must be very tired, those ghosts; no flesh sustains them
And the bones rust in the rain.
                                              Reluctant to go into the earth
The skulls gleam: wet; the dog-tag forgets the name;
The statistics (wherein they were young) like their crosses, are weathering out,

They must be very tired.
                                     But I see them riding home,
Nightly: crying weak lust and rage: to stand in the dark,
Forlorn in known rooms, unheard near familiar beds:
Where lie the aging women: who were so lovely: once.

from: Selected Poems 1938-1988. Copyright  1988.
The Hollywood Blacklist - Dan Georgakas
More on the Blacklist.

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