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The object of the programme is to ask, through John Cornford's life and poetry, the question - why was the relationship between poetry and life - including politics - vividly reopened - in the 193...0s. Aspects of John Cornford's life, from his birth (in 1915) into an intellectual family in Cambridge, to his death, fighting in Spain (1936) are touched on in the recorded voices of his brother and other friends. Professor Arnold Kettle then discusses the overtly political nature of Cornford's late poems, Cornford had to try 'to combine theory and practice to find words that help resolve the relationship between his actions as poet and his actions as man'. Cornford in Spain was personally involved in life and death political argument and action. It is his distinction that his poems deal directly with his intellectual emotional and physical experience, however 'unpoetic' that experience might seem to the conventional.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A306, Twentieth century poetry
Item code: A306; 11
First transmission date: 10-07-1976
Published: 1976
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:30
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Producer: Nuala O'Faolain
Contributors: Christopher Cornford; Arnold Kettle
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Cornford, John; Language
Subject terms: Poetry; Radicalism; Socialism; Student movements; World War II
Footage description: Opening shots of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, Arnold Kettle explains the object of the programme, which is to understand John Cornford and his attempt to base poetry firmly in reality. Briefly, he outlines Cornford's family background. Cornford's brother, Christopher gives their family background in detail. He particularly describes their mother's attitude to poetry and how John also became interested in poetry. He explains how John's ideas on poetry developed while he was at Stowe public school, 1929-32. Photographs of the family shown throughout. In voice-over Philip Gell explains how Cornford's radicalism was developed and hardened at Stowe He explains why poets such as Auden and Eliot were influential in Cornford's adoption of socialism. This sequence shows various still of Stowe and its pupils on the early 1930s. Kettle provides some of the intellectual background of the 1930s. He describes the views of left wing students in general and of Cornford in particular. He mentions Cornford's work in both Labour Research Department and the Communist Party. In voice-over Victor Kiernan describes the student scene in the Cambridge of the early 1930s. He explains the importance of the Student Movement. Photographs of students marching and campaigning. Kiernan explains the dilemma posed by the questions of war and imperialism. He shows what was Cornford's role in this student movement. Photographs of articles written by Cornford at this time. Kettle talks of Cornford's developing theories of poetry, such as his rejection of the idea of the artist's impartiality. In voice-over Margot Heinemann describes her friendship with Cornford (1936). She describes their poetic and political influences, as well as Cornford's own ideas. She explains his view of the Spanish struggle and describes his first trip to Spain. Photographs of Heinemann and Cornford throughout. Kettle explains why the political content of the poems of the 1930s made them so new. He argues that these poems are not propaganda. He explains why Cornford's poems are important and traces their political roots. He demonstrates that these poems amalgamate theory and practice. Various extracts from the Spanish poems are shown. Sam Russell describes how he and Cornford met up together and went to Spain to fight in the civil war. Archive film of the war. Russell gives his view of the war, and then describes Cornford's death in action.
Master spool number: 6HT/71793
Production number: 00525_3188
Videofinder number: 724
Available to public: no