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Cornet and Cartridge

Tony Harrison, 17 February 2011

... I look through lace curtains in the Swell hotel with glass in its windows not panicking plastic like the one I’d camped out in during the war, and see morning mist in now sniperless hills. Next door ’s the old hotel, the Shell not the Swell with sunflower shell-bursts on its windowless sills, some deep enough at least for sparrows to nest in, and my shadow makes them fly up in a twitter, filling the air between the Swell and the Shell ...


Tony Harrison, 19 February 2015

... and one forty years back from the Festival Hall, a reading with Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and me, Tony Harrison, sadly the only one still alive. Both those I’ve read with have been in this kitchen. Along with the makars I’ve already mentioned, Aeschylus, Virgil, Ovid, Egil, Byron, Seferis, Kazantzakis, Ted Hughes, I move towards an in ...

Two Poems

Tony Harrison, 10 May 2001

... Queuing for Charon 1 Cretans still can’t stand ‘the Krauts’ but don’t turn them away, gaga ex-Nazis, lager louts, cramming Crete on holiday. Fifty-odd years of so-called peace fill beaches with old foes. Northern Europe flocks to Greece to warm its frozen toes. And my old carcass likes these coasts, archaeology and joy, but even in Greek sun the ghosts come back to haunt the boy ...

Piazza Sannazaro

Tony Harrison, 21 October 2010

... i. One reason why we stay in Mergellina in our favourite city Napoli ’s to eat fresh shellfish with volcanic Falanghina at Pasqualino’s outside in the street in the Piazza Sannazaro, a small square named for the poet I’m inviting you to meet. Two greater poets’ tombs are close to there, Virgil and Leopardi, whose verse nurtured mine but ignore for now that more illustrious pair, and make a pilgrimage before you dine to a poet of some significance though far less great, to Jacopo Sannazaro in his shrine ...

The Pomegranates of Patmos

Tony Harrison, 1 June 1989

... We may be that generation that sees Armageddon. Ronald Reagan, 1980 My brother, my bright twin, Prochorus, I think his bright future’s been wrecked. When we’ve both got our lives before us he’s gone and joined this weird sect. He sits in a cave with his guru, a batty old bugger called John and scribbles on scrolls stuff to scare you while the rabbi goes rabbiting on ...

Two Poems

Tony Harrison: ‘Fruitility’, 28 October 1999

... Fruitility What a glorious gift from Gaia, raspberries piled on papaya, which as a ruse to lift my soul I serve up in my breakfast bowl, and, contemplating, celebrate nature’s fruit, and man’s air-freight speeding my fruit breakfast here through tropo- and through stratosphere. I praise papaya and celebrate the man who packed it in its crate, the worker or Hawaiian grower in Kipahulu or Pahoa, the worried cultivator who scans the sky from Honomu, with global warming getting higher than is good for his papaya; worries I myself had known when, in Nigeria, I’d grown what we called pawpaws of my own; picked, deseeded, served fridge-fresh I fed my kids their orange flesh ...

Following Pine

Tony Harrison, 6 February 1986

... When a plumber glues some lengths of PVC that pipe our cold spring water from its source, or a carpenter fits porch-posts, and they see, from below or from above, the heartwood floors made from virgin lumber, such men say, as if they’d taught each other the same line: Boards like them boards don’t exist today! then maybe add: Now everything’s new pine ...

The Mother of the Muses

Tony Harrison, 5 January 1989

... In memoriam Emmanuel Stratas, born Crete 1903, died Toronto 1987 After I’ve lit the fire and looked outside and found us snowbound and the roads all blocked, anxious to prove my memory’s not ossified and the way into that storehouse still unlocked, as it’s easier to remember poetry, I try to remember, but soon find it hard, a speech from Prometheus a boy from Greece BC scratched, to help him learn it, on a shard ...


Tony Harrison, 24 January 1985

... hoisted for the British ruling class and clandestine, genteel aggro keeps them up. And there’s HARRISON on some Leeds building sites I’ve taken in fun as blazoning my name, which I’ve also seen on books, in Broadway lights, so why can’t skins with spraycans do the same? But why inscribe these graves with CUNT and SHIT? Why choose neglected tombstones ...


Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... There are grounds for thinking Tony Harrison the first genuine working-class poet England has produced this century. Of course, poets from D.H. Lawrence to Craig Raine can boast a proletarian background, but their poetry isn’t usually interested in doing so – not at its most characteristic and not to an extent that would make the term ‘working-class poet’ a useful one ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... argument on behalf of the Scots, avoids this mistake, detecting in a provincial Englishman like Tony Harrison a fury and resentment not surpassed by any Scot. But this is hardly a novel perception, for Harrison has achieved fame on the strength of it. In fact, it’s hard to find any English writer who isn’t ...

Beetle bonkers in the beams

Michael Wood: Tony Harrison, 5 July 2007

Collected Film Poetry 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 571 23409 7
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Collected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Viking, 452 pp., £154, April 2007, 978 0 670 91591 0
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... One of the great pleasures of reading Tony Harrison is the sense of quick passage between worlds, the sudden switch from the local to the international and back. At one moment he immerses us in a Northern (or Midlands in my case) English worry about what happens to us socially when we drop our ‘h’s and pronounce our ‘u’s as in ‘wuss’ rather than as in (the Southern form of) ‘lustre’, the next he is wondering how to memorialise the dead of Hiroshima or the Gulf War ...

The Authentic Snarl

Blake Morrison: The Impudence of Tony Harrison, 30 November 2017

The Inky Digit of Defiance: Selected Prose 1966-2016 
by Tony Harrison, edited by Edith Hall.
Faber, 544 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 571 32503 0
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Collected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Penguin, 464 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 97435 3
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... If​ his English teacher hadn’t been so snootily discouraging, it’s unlikely that Tony Harrison would have gone on to write as much as he has: by my calculation, 13 plays, 11 films and twenty or more poetry collections and pamphlets, not to mention the essays and addresses assembled in Edith Hall’s edition of his selected prose ...

Facing South

Alistair Elliot, 23 June 1994

... for Tony Harrison Happiness, therefore, must be some form of theoria. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X.8 Theoria: ... a looking at, viewing, beholding ... ‘to go abroad to see the world’ (Herodotus) ... 2. of the mind, contemplation, speculation, philosophic reasoning ... theory ... II. the being a spectator at the theatre or the games ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison, 5 December 1985

No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... Poetry written in dialect seems to be undergoing a resurgence. Tony Harrison has made extensive use of Northern idioms. Tom Paulin has been busy raiding Ulster (and, I suspect, Scottish) dictionaries. Craig Raine has produced a manifesto, ‘Babylonish Dialects’, on dialect’s behalf. And several of the books under review here – by Scots, Welshmen and British West Indians – cannot be read without the glossaries which they thoughtfully provide ...

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