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For over twenty years Andy Croft has been writing letters in verse to the ghost of the writer Randall Swingler (1909–1967). Although Swingler is largely forgotten today, he was arguably one of the most significant writers of his generation, a novelist, poet, playwright, librettist and editor of the radical literary magazines Left Review, Poetry and the People, Our Time, Arena and Circus. During the Second World War Swingler served with the 56th Divisional Signals with the Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy. He took part in heavy fighting on the Volturno and Garigliano rivers, at Monte Camino and on the Salerno and Anzio beach-heads. For his part in the battle of Lake Comacchio, Swingler was awarded the Military Medal. His collections The Years of Anger (1946) and The God in the Cave (1950) contain some of the greatest poems of the Italian campaign. After the War, Swingler was blacklisted by the BBC. Orwell included him in the list of names he offered the security services. Stephen Spender attacked him in The God that Failed. In 1956 Swingler joined the editorial board of the New Reasoner and was on the founding board of New Left Review.
Written in ottava rima, these letters bring Swingler up to date with developments in poetry and politics in the fifty years since his death, addressing issues of biography and literary reputation, the Second World War, the Cold War, espionage, the War on Terror, and the rise of right-wing populism.
‘laugh-out-loud funny’ (The Guardian)
‘The Alexander Pope of the North’ (John Hartley–Williams)
‘Swiftian vigour’ (Tears in the Fence)
Andy Croft has written over 80 books, including Selected Poems of Randall Swingler, Comrade Heart: A Life of Randall Swingler and Randall Swingler, Poet of the Italian Campaign. His books of poetry include Ghost Writer, 1948 (with Martin Rowson) and A Modern Don Juan (edited with NS Thompson). He curates the T-junction international poetry festival and runs Smokestack Books.
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