Tony Harrison

Tony Harrison’s ‘V’ was first published in the LRB in 1985.

Poem: ‘Polygons’

Tony Harrison, 19 February 2015

Dionysius of Halicarnassus once likened Aeschylus’ poetry to this Cyclopean wall beneath Apollo’s temple before us, this wall I always gaze on whenever in Delphi, blocks shaped like continents pre-early Jurassic where capers cascade down landlocked Pangaea, polygonal Gondwanaland, in tasselly swathes. Unspaced Greek capitals cross all the cracks keeping blocks bonded with alphabet...

Poem: ‘Black Sea Aphrodite’

Tony Harrison, 21 November 2013

Chersonesos, Crimea. Archaeologists reassemble miscellaneous pebbles to restore Aphrodite found on the Black Sea the year of my birth, 1937, by Kiev’s Prof. Belov. An Aphrodite of pebbles made fatal as missiles when flung by fervid adultress-denouncers, in sects so hyper-pious they damn all such couplings, and stipulate suitable sizes for stoning so adultresses the goddess had goaded to...

Poem: ‘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...

Poem: ‘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...

Poem: ‘Diary’

Tony Harrison, 12 February 2009

I’ve always been aware one day I’ll die but I feel my real mortality begin when this year, for the first time, I’ve filled in the ‘in case of emergency please notify:’

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...

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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...

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The first literary appearance of the mythical figure of Prometheus (whose name means ‘foresight’) is in the writings of Hesiod. Hesiod’s Titan is something of a trickster, of...

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Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

‘Dates, dates are of the essence; and it will be found that I date quite exactly the breakdown of the imaginative exploit of the Cantos: between the completion of the late sequence called...

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Here comes Amy

Christopher Reid, 17 April 1986

Amy Clampitt is a most spirited and exhilarating performer. An enormous appetite for observation and zeal to describe precisely what she has observed are transmitted through both the best and the...

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Dialect does it

Blake Morrison, 5 December 1985

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)...

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Venisti tandem

Denis Donoghue, 7 February 1985

A year or two ago, Geoffrey Hartman urged literary critics to declare their independence. They should not regard criticism as an activity secondary to the literature it addressed, but as an art...

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Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

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...

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