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Randall Swingler (1909-67) was arguably the most significant and the best-known radical English poet of his generation.
A widely published poet, playwright, novelist, editor and critic, his work was set to music by almost all the major British composers of his time.
This new biography draws on extensive sources, including the security services files, to present the most detailed account yet of this influential poet, lyricist and activist. A literary entrepreneur, Swingler was founder of radical paperback publishing company Fore Publications, editor of Left Review and Our Time and literary editor of the Daily Worker; later becoming a staff reporter, until the paper was banned in 1941.
In the 1930s, he contributed several plays for Unity Theatre, including the Mass Declamation Spain, the Munich play Crisis and the revues Sandbag Follies and Get Cracking.
In 1936, MI5 opened a 20-year-long file on him prompted by a song he co-wrote with Alan Bush for a concert organised to mark the arrival of the 1934 Hunger March into London.
During the Second World War, Swingler served in North Africa and Italy and was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the battle of Lake Comacchio.
His collections The Years of Anger (1946) and The God in the Cave (1950) contain arguably some of the greatest poems of the Italian campaign.
After the war, Swingler was blacklisted by the BBC. Orwell attacked him in Polemic and included him in the list of names he offered the security services in 1949.
Stephen Spender vilified him in The God That Failed. The book will challenge the Cold War assumptions that have excluded Swingler's life and work from standard histories of the period and should be of great interest to activists, scholars and those with an interest in the history of the literary and radical left.
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