Tony Harrison: v - conflicting voices and the political imperative -

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Tony Harrison: v - conflicting voices and the political imperative -


Tony Harrison: v - conflicting voices and the political imperative - Contemporary Literature in English Dr. Nat lia Pikli ELTE – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Tony Harrison: v - conflicting voices and the political imperative -

Tony Harrison v- conflicting voices and the
political imperative -
  • Contemporary Literature in English
  • Dr. Natália Pikli
  • ELTE

Tony Harrison (b. 1937)page, stage and screen
its all one poetry
  • Motto of V
  • 'My father still reads the dictionary every day.
    He says your life depends on your power to master
  • Arthur Scargill
  • Sunday Times, 10 January 1982
  • Examining and dramatising the relationships
  • language/power/politics BARD
  • Rutter, Carol (1995). Permanently Bard. Newcastle
    upon Tyne Bloodaxe Books.

Major works
  • The Loiners (1970)
  • From the School of Eloquence and Other
    Poems (1981)
  • Continuous (50 Sonnets from the School of
    Eloquence and Other Poems) (1981)
  • A Kumquat for John Keats (1981)
  • V (1985)
  • Dramatic Verse,1973-85 (1985)
  • Square Rounds (1992)
  • The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992)
  • Black Daisies for the Bride (1993)
  • The Shadow of Hiroshima and Other
    Film/Poems (1995)
  • Laureate's Block and Other Occasional
    Poems (2000)
  • Under the Clock (2005)
  • Selected Poems (2006)
  • Collected Poems (2007)
  • Collected Film Poetry (2007)
  • Drama translations/adaptations Aeschyluss The
    Oresteia, The Mysteries, Molieres Misanthrope,
    Euripidess Hecuba, Phaedra Britannica (from

Author Statementhttp//literature.britishcouncil.
  • Tony Harrison my upbringing among so-called
    'inarticulate' people has given me a passion for
    language that communicates directly and
    immediately. I prefer the idea of men speaking to
    men to a man speaking to God, or even worse to
    Oxford's anointed. And books are only a part of
    what I see as poetry. It seems to me no accident
    that some of the best poetry in the world is in
    some of its drama from the Greek onwards. In it I
    find a reaffirmation of the power of the word,
    eroded by other media and by some of the
    speechless events of our worst century.

a man of contradictions
  • - Leeds, run-down industrial city, son of a baker
    v scholarship (Leeds Grammar School, Leeds
    University) the classics/Oxbridge education
  • - inherited/childhood lge (non-Standard) v RP
  • - scholar, poeta doctus v reaching mass
    audiences (National Theatre, TV film/poems)

Interview (Guardian, 31 March 2007)
  • "There are risks of sentimentality," he says.
    "But my metre starts ticking in the presence of
    dumbness and inarticulacy. Coming from a very
    inarticulate family made me try to speak for
    those who can't express themselves, and created a
    need for articulation at its most ceremonial -
  • GIVING VOICE TO the underpriviliged, Hiroshima
    victims, Alzheimer victims,
  • reflecting on Salman Rushdies fatwa, the Iraq
    war, the Bosnian conflict, etc.
  • against an "English reluctance to marry politics
    and poetry. Why shouldn't poetry address what
    happened yesterday, and be published in the
  • http//

  • How you became a poet's a mystery!
  • Wherever did you get your talent from?
  • I say I had two uncles, Joe and Harry-
  • one was a stammerer, the other dumb.

Them uzfor Professors Richard Hoggart Leon
Cortez (excerpts)
  • 4 words only of mi art aches and Mines
  • You barbarian, T.W.! He was nicely spoken.
  • Cant have our glorious heritage done to death!
  • Poetry is the speech of kings. Youre one of
  • Shakespeare gives the comic bits to prose!
  • All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see
  • s been dubbed by ?s into RP,
  • Recieved Pronunciation, please believe ?s
  • Your speech is in the hands of the Receivers.
  • We say ?s not uz, T.W! That shut my trap.
  • So right, yer buggers, then! Well occupy
  • Your lousy leasehold Poetry.
  • RIP RP, RIP T. W.
  • Im Tony Harrison no longer you!

V (1985)
  • written during the miners strike 1984-85
  • Thatcher and transnational corporations v
    miners/trade unions
  • 1970, Enoch Powells speech the enemy within,
    1980s Thatcherite we v the culturally
    different who are dangerous to liberty
  • collapse of such cities as Leeds (coal,
    manufacture, cotton, etc.)
  • Arthur Scargill National Union of Mineworkers
  • political statement or poetry?

  • drama poet/persona visiting his parents grave
    in historical Leeds cemetery (Beeston Hill,
    overloking the town/the university) tombstones
    vandalised by skinheads/football fans
  • personal reflection on what he finds ? dialogue
    (skin v poet, Doppelgänger? his other alternative
    self if no educational success?) ? home ?
    summary? his own epitaph
  • Modelled on and mocking the poetic tradition (cf.
    T.S. Eliot!) adapting the genre of
    funeral/pastoral elegy
  • Thomas Gray Elegy Written in a Country
    Churchyard (1742-1750).

Thomas Gray description, a peaceful dirge,
melancholy, monologue, and an epitaph for the poet
  • Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's
  • Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
  • Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
  • The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
  • Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
  • Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.
  • The Epitaph
  • Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
  • A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
  • Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
  • And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.
  • Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
  • Heav'n did a recompense as largely send
  • He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
  • He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a

VMocking poetic tradition/role and questioning
the significance and role of a poetByron/Wordswo
  • With Byron three graves on Ill not go short
  • Of company, and Wordsworths opposite.
  • Wordsworth built church organs, Byron tanned
  • Luggage cowhide in the age of steam
  • And there's HARRISON on some Leeds building
  • I've taken in fun as blazoning my name,
  • which I've also seen on books, in Broadway
  • so why can't skins with spraycans do the same?

Going against the grain trochees instead of
iambs, alliteration (Middle Ages/Northerner),
colloquial speech
  • Next millennium you'll have to search quite hard
  • to find my slab behind the family dead,
  • butcher, publican, and baker, now me, bard
  • adding poetry to their beef, beer and bread.

expletives/four-letter words language layers
of society (mayor, nameless ones, skins) cf.
  • The language of this graveyard ranges from
  • a bit of Latin for a former Mayor
  • or those who laid their lives down at the Somme,
  • the hymnal fragments and the gilded prayer,
  • how people 'fell asleep in the Good Lord',
  • brief chisellable bits from the good book
  • and rhymes whatever length they could afford,
  • to CUNT, PISS, SHIT and (mostly) FUCK!

v as versus class/education/politics general
  • Vs sprayed on the run at such a lick,
  • the sprayer master of his flourished tool,
  • get short-armed on the left like that red tick
  • they never marked his work with much at school.
  • These Vs are all the versuses of life
  • From LEEDS v. DERBY, Black/White
  • and (as I've known to my cost) man v. wife,
  • Communist v. Fascist, Left v. Right,
  • Class v. class as bitter as before,
  • the unending violence of US and THEM,
  • personified in 1984
  • by Coal Board MacGregor and the NUM,
  • Hindu/Sikh, soul/body, heart v. mind,
  • East/West, male/female, and the ground
  • these fixtures are fought on's Man, resigned
  • to hope from his future what his past never

Dialogue 1.
  • What is it that these crude words are revealing?
  • What is it that this aggro act implies?
  • Giving the dead their xenophobic feeling
  • or just a cri-de-coeur because man dies?
  • So what's a cri-de-coeur, cunt? Can't you speak
  • the language that yer mam spoke. Think of 'er!
  • Can yer only get yer tongue round fucking Greek?
  • Go and fuck yourself with cri-de-coeur!
  • 'She didn't talk like you do for a start!'
  • I shouted, turning where I thought the voice had
  • She didn't understand yer fucking 'art'!
  • She thought yer fucking poetry obscene!

Dialogue 2. role/dialect reversalcan you
represent the ones you come from/ separated from
by education and language?
  • 'Listen, cunt!' I said, 'before you start your
  • the reason why I want this in a book
  • 's to give ungrateful cunts like you a hearing!'
  • A book, yer stupid cunt, 's not worth a fuck!
  • 'The only reason why I write this poem at all
  • on yobs like you who do the dirt on death
  • 's to give some higher meaning to your scrawl.'
  • Don't fucking bother, cunt! Don't waste your
  • 'You piss-artist skinhead cunt, you wouldn't know
  • and it doesn't fucking matter if you do,
  • the skin and poet united fucking Rimbaud
  • but the autre that je est is fucking you.
  • Ah've told yer, no more Greek...That's yer last
  • Ah'll boot yer fucking balls to Kingdom Come.
  • They'll find yer cold on t'grave tomorrer
  • So don't speak Greek. Don't treat me like I'm

  • 'OK!' (thinking I had him trapped) 'OK!'
  • 'If you're so proud of it, then sign your name
  • when next you're full of HARP and armed with
  • next time you take this short cut from the game.'
  • He took the can, contemptuous, unhurried
  • and cleared the nozzle and prepared to sign
  • the UNITED sprayed where mam and dad were buried.
  • He aerosolled his name. And it was mine.

racism/problems of multiculturalism/PC or
problem? todays skin v poets father
  • But why inscribe these graves with CUNT
  • and SHIT?
  • Why choose neglected tombstones to disfigure?
  • This pitman's of last century daubed PAKI GIT,
  • this grocer Broadbent's aerosolled with NIGGER?
  • House after house FOR SALE where we'd played
  • with white roses cut from flour-sacks on our
  • with stumps chalked on the coal-grate for our
  • and every one bought now by 'coloured chaps',
  • dad's most liberal label as he felt
  • squeezed by the unfamiliar, and fear
  • of foreign food and faces, when he smelt
  • curry in the shop where he'd bought beer.

UNITED sprayed on his parents
tombstone/football club/metaphor
  • Half versus half, the enemies within
  • the heart that can't be whole till they unite.
  • As I stoop to grab the crushed HARP lager tin
  • the day's already dusk, half dark, half light.
  • That UNITED that I'd wished onto the nation
  • or as reunion for dead parents soon recedes.
  • The word's once more a mindless desecration
  • by some HARPoholic yob supporting Leeds.

Motif of Here Comes the Bride (3x)love
  • Home, home to my woman, where the fire's lit
  • these still chilly mid-May evenings, home to you,
  • The ones we choose to love become our anchor
  • My alter ego wouldn't want to know it,
  • His aerosol vocab would baulk at LOVE,
  • the skin's UNITED underwrites the poet,
  • the measures carved below the ones above.

The Epitaph self-definition, self-articulation,
  • Beneath your feet's a poet, then a pit.
  • Poetry supporter, if you're here to find
  • How poems can grow from (beat you to it!) SHIT
  • find the beef, the beer, the bread, then look
  • death/the great leveller/material and spiritual
  • remembrance

  • versus
  • verses
  • victory sign
  • four-letter sign
  • red tick at school
  • Heteroglossia (Bakhtin) plurality of voices
  • semantic ambivalence puns and role/uncertainty
    of lge
  • personal memory fiction or reality? a
    recreation of the event (lge never passive) or
    political/authorial statement
  • author/narrator/character (cf. Fowles)

The film, dir. R. Eyre, BBC Channel 4, 1987
great publicity
  • Teddy Taylor Tory MP
  • appealed to Channel 4
  • chiefs to see sense
  • a poem full of
  • obscenities is clearly so
  • objectionable that it will
  • lead to the government
  • being forced to take
  • action it would prefer not
  • to have to take.
  • Charges of obscenity, bullying,
    misrepresentation, prejudice
  • Gerald Howarth said that Harrison was "Probably
    another Bolshie poet wishing to impose his
    frustrations on the rest of us".
  • Harrison retorted that Howarth was "Probably
    anotheridiot MP wishing to impose his
    intellectual limitations on the rest of us".
  • Blake Morrison poet and critic in The Independent
    said Those MPs are right to believe that the
    poem is shocking, but not because of its
    language. It shocks because it describes
    unflinchingly what is meant by a divided society,
    because it takes the abstractions we have learned
    to live with unemployment, racial tension,
    inequality, deprivation and gives them a kind
    of physical existence on the page.
  • Harold Pinter
  • The criticism against the poem has been
  • offensive, juvenile and, of course, philistine.
  • It should certainly be broadcast.

Tony Harrison in Hungary
  • Lettre (Vol.52. 2004. Spring)
  • Szabó T. Anna Hálaadás
  • Mesterházi Mónika A fogfájás (short story)
  • Ferencz Gyozo v (excerpts)
  • http//
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