on 13 April 2007
Poetry is difficult. There. Said it. And you need to persevere to discover its true meaning and worth.
Yet, Harrison is one of many exceptions to these pre set ideas.
In this book (especially in the School of Eloquence sequence) there is a wealth of genuinely accessible poetry about loss, community, and familial relationships. Whilst, at its core, there is the heart rending, and on-going story, of the scholarship boy displaced from his home, his family and his class by his education.
If you get the chance, try Book Ends, a beautiful sonnet about the uneasy relationship between a father and son and the gulf that exists between them following the death of the mother / wife. And you would have to possess a hard heart indeed not to be touched by the gently moving Long Distance.
on 10 September 2007
I've owned this collection for nearly twenty years, and even for favourite poetry, this has proved to be outstanding value for money. There are so many poems here, you can dive right in or just have a little dip occasionally. His is a very strong poetic voice, and his biggest feature is his heart. He can be intellectual, erudite and even arcane, but too much of this gets him teetering on the pretentious and sometimes you even think he's teasing you with his great breadth of themes and subjects and his strong knowledge of linguistics and love for classial verse and classical history. But he will always lead you back to warmer waters with his homely Yorkshire heart.
I don't think his reputation is as strong as it was twenty years ago. In fact it unquestionably isn't. 'Blasphemer's Banquet' in the early nineties seemed to leave a few people cold, those who probably confused his message somewhat because of the strong unrepentant tone. That though, was always Harrison's strength: His passion and heart. But on occasions it was a little too direct for some of the softer poetry lovers. 'V' also divided opinion and made big impressions both positive and nagative. This one super-poem should never be regarded as his finest work, however much it spoke for an unrepresented section of society.
But the biggest threat to his reputation now, has to be the current taste, or trend in poetry. Quite honestly, these days this T.H. is about as modern in his style as another: Thomas Hardy. Harrison's modern themes and subjects and his earthy language are as street cred as any young poet's today, but his consistent use of verse is most definitely passe'. It's a shame, and I hope it doesn't tempt him into trying his hand at the very loose free verse/prose poetry form that seems to be the prevailing fashion now, but I shouldn't think it would: He has a strong Yorkshire stubborn streak in him, does Tony. He should proudly keep up the old (cloth) hat.
on 26 April 2014
I cannot recommend this collection highly enough. Tony Harrison is a Poet, capital P - certainly far and away the greatest living Poet in England. He has the courage to communicate his (often controversial) views and ideas through his glorious formal Verse. Some of the Poems from the 'School Of Eloquence' sequence are incredibly moving, 'V' is quite simply a masterpiece and 'A Cold Coming' demonstrates the Poet's revulsion against war and dedication to the cause of peace. There are too many published writers in the English-speaking world today who are quite content to rattle off a paragraph of descriptive prose, perhaps throw in an interesting original simile and add line-breaks every few words, and pass it off as 'contemporary poetry' - this diminishes Poetry and reduces it to a laughing stock among the arts. Given the flexibility, adaptability and vastness of the English language, and the metrical and rhyming possibilities this vastness affords the writer, there is no excuse for this. Such people have no right to call themselves 'poets', for that is a different category of writing and way beneath Poetry - Tony Harrison, however, most certainly DOES have the right to call himself a Poet! This collection is recommended for anyone who loves REAL Poetry as opposed to oxymoronically so-called 'free verse'.
on 22 February 2010
poetry is an odd thing-most people having been force fed a few classical poets for o/a levels rarely look at the stuff again.
this is the book to give non poetry readers-it will be the start of a slippery slope....falling into a love affair with the written word.
Tonys poems are simple to read, tangibly emotive and glorious.
full of ideas, emotions and love, never fanciful and if you read them aloud...the words feel like your own.
if i could write my thoughts into poems-i would want to write like this