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The Return of Poetry

The more insightful and intelligent critics on the Right have long known that winning the culture is more important than winning elections. Andrew Breitbart’s oft-cited and pithy phrase “politics is downstream from culture,” contains more than a grain of truth to it. However, for those on the real Right (or Dissident Right or Reactionary Right or Right-Right), a problem often arises: how can the Right create parallel institutions or alternative culture without becoming contaminated by the sickness known as modernism? Furthermore, how can right-wing culture be created and cultivated without becoming Boomerist, consumerist, and Fox News-style kitsch?

The answer may be found in the Occident’s oldest form of culture: poetry. The Western vision of masculinity comes from poetry. See The Iliad, The Aeneid, and arguably the greatest medieval ballad of them all, The Song of Roland. The Bible is also full of immaculate poetry, from the lyrical love letters of Songs of Solomon to the paeans of godly praise contained in the Psalms.

There was also a time when conservative or right-wing poets were on the cutting edge of literary culture. See for instance the High Church Anglican T.S. Eliot, who wrote the very radical poem “The Waste Land” about life in Europe after World War I. Wyndham Lewis, one of Britain’s leading proponents of Vorticist art, was an admirer of Hitler’s Germany and supported General Francisco Franco’s war against the Spanish Left. Most famous of all, American poet Ezra Pound, one of the greatest exemplars of Imagist verse, remains a hero among Italian neo-fascists to this day.

But, alas, that was then. These days, poetry belongs to the blue-haired set. Slam poetry, a completely obnoxious form of pseudo-rapping, is upheld as a genuine art movement because most of the “poets” make a fuss about racism, sexism, and everything that stinks of white males. Even worse, poetry, like most of Western culture, has become feminized and inward-looking. Basically, what one finds in most poetry journals these days is warmed-over Sylvia Plath.

One man and one website is trying to fight back. The man is Arthur Powell and his website is Atop the Cliffs. Billed as “The Home of New Occidental Poetry,” Atop the Cliffs is an attempt, Mr. Powell says, of creating right-wing culture that goes beyond mere critique. Powell also wants conservatives and those of the Right to stop thinking like Gavin McInnes, who is open about the fact that he refuses to read fiction and consider video games, one of the world’s most popular pastimes, a reserve for losers.

Atop the Cliffs carving out a space from left-wing writing,” Mr. Powell told me during our interview over Skype. “Culture is a tool,” Mr. Powell also said, and unlike many right-wing websites, Atop the Cliffs is about value over subject matter. Powell is not looking for explicitly right-wing poems, but perusing the website makes it abundantly clear that Atop the Cliffs attracts writers (most of whom are men) of a clearly hard-right bent.

Arthur Powell comes from middle-class England and has been involved in right-wing politics for quite some time. He pulls no punches when it comes to the Alt Right, which he has dubbed "basic bitch white nationalism, [which is] seemingly intent on repeating the mistakes of the past." For him, a right-wing avant garde or a right-leaning brand of gutter poetry is more valuable than hundreds of Richard Spencer speeches. More to the point, Powell, who was raised in the English school system on a diet of post-colonial lit, wants men of the West to rediscover the poetry of John Donne, Shakespeare, and others, while simultaneously crafting their own pieces.

“Men need poetry. Men are the true Romantics,” Powell says. He also defines poetry as the very male way of capturing beauty and making sense of the world around them. This is a far cry from what Powell calls the “perpetually depressed” style of feminized poetry.

None of this means that Atop the Cliffs does not want or publish female poets. Indeed, Powell wants people to send him more poems, regardless of their sex.

“People are always overly self-critical,” Powell says of aspiring writers, “Write what you feel. Worst thing [I] could do is give you feedback.”

Outside of poetry, Powell has plenty of opinions about what’s wrong in Europe and what’s right in the United States. In his native England, which fills Mr. Powell with “shame,” the middle class cult of respectability and niceness is ruining the country. Because of this trap, English people keep quiet about taboo topics (Muslim grooming gangs, for instance) in order to not come across as working class oafs. Powell pointed out to me that the Bradford Race Riots of 2001, which saw street battles between Asian Muslims and white working class youth, deeply impacted the white psyche in Britain. Why? Because the British police came down so hard on the whites that it convinced many to keep their mouths closed and their eyes covered. As for Germany and Sweden, their problems with Muslim immigration can no longer be ignored.

Powell, who now lives in the American West, wants the American right-wing to embrace the era of Manifest Destiny, which Powell regards as the best epoch in American history (the worst would be the post-World War II era when the U.S. backed anti-colonial movements in Rhodesia, South Africa, and elsewhere). Powell told me that the main issues with the Alt Right and the Reactionary movement are their emphasis on Europe—European philosophies, political figures, and political solutions. None of these things mean anything to Americans.

Still, it is key to remember that politics are not as important as culture. Men and the West need poetry. Atop the Cliffs is trying to be a rare voice out in the wilderness crying out for meaningful verse, even verse that has humor (a particular favorite of Mr. Powell’s). Powell, site’s creator and editor, wants poets who are not comfortable with the mainstream or the “acceptable” poetical norms. Be uncouth, be free. Most of all, write poetry and submit it to Atop the Cliffs .

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