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1 Tony Harrison: v - conflicting voices and the political imperative - Contemporary Literature in EnglishDr. Natália PikliELTE
2 Tony Harrison (b. 1937) page, stage and screen: ”it’s all one poetry” Motto of V:'My father still reads the dictionary every day. He says your life depends on your power to master words.‘Arthur ScargillSunday Times, 10 January 1982Examining and dramatising the relationships betweenlanguage/power/politics: BARDRutter, Carol (1995). Permanently Bard. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books.
3 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, (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: Aeschylus’s The Oresteia, The Mysteries, Moliere’s Misanthrope, Euripides’s Hecuba, Phaedra Britannica (from Racine’s)
4 Author Statement http://literature.britishcouncil.org/tony-harrison 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.”
5 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)
6 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 - poetry."GIVING VOICE TO the underpriviliged, Hiroshima victims, Alzheimer victims,reflecting on Salman Rushdie’s 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 newspaper?"
7 Heredity 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.First pamhlet of poems publ by Leeds univ 1960s
8 Them & [uz] for Professors Richard Hoggart & Leon Cortez (excerpts) […]4 words only of mi ‘art aches and… ‘Mine’s broken,You barbarian, T.W.!’ He was nicely spoken.‘Can’t have our glorious heritage done to death!’‘Poetry is the speech of kings. You’re one of thoseShakespeare gives the comic bits to : prose!All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see‘s been dubbed by [Λs] into RP,Recieved Pronunciation, please believe [Λs]Your speech is in the hands of the Receivers.’‘We say [Λs] not [uz], T.W!’ That shut my trap.So right, yer buggers, then! We’ll occupyYour lousy leasehold Poetry.RIP RP, RIP T. W.I’m Tony Harrison no longer you!My first mention in the TimesAutomatically made Tony Anthony!
9 V (1985) written during the miners’ strike 1984-85 Thatcher and transnational corporations v miners/trade unions1970, Enoch Powell’s 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 (NUM)political statement or poetry?
10 v‘drama’: poet/persona visiting his parents’ grave in historical Leeds cemetery (Beeston Hill, overloking the town/the university) – tombstones vandalised by skinheads/football fanspersonal reflection on what he finds → dialogue (skin v poet, Doppelgänger? his other alternative self if no educational success?) → home → summary? : his own epitaphModelled 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 ( ).
11 Thomas Gray: description, a peaceful dirge, melancholy, monologue, and an epitaph for the poet ”Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,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 EpitaphHere rests his head upon the lap of EarthA 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 friend.No farther seek his merits to disclose,Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,(There they alike in trembling hope repose)The bosom of his Father and his God.
12 V Mocking poetic tradition/role and questioning the significance and role of a poet: Byron/Wordsworth/Harrison/skin”With Byron three graves on I’ll not go shortOf company, and Wordsworth’s opposite.[…]Wordsworth built church organs, Byron tannedLuggage cowhide in the age of steam””And there's HARRISON on some Leeds building sitesI'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?”
13 Going against the grain: trochees instead of iambs, alliteration (Middle Ages/Northerner), colloquial speechNext millennium you'll have to search quite hardto find my slab behind the family dead,butcher, publican, and baker, now me, bardadding poetry to their beef, beer and bread.
14 expletives/four-letter words – language = layers of society (mayor, nameless ones, skins) cf. rhymes!The language of this graveyard ranges froma bit of Latin for a former Mayoror 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 bookand rhymes whatever length they could afford,to CUNT, PISS, SHIT and (mostly) FUCK!
15 v as versus – class/education/politics & general concerns 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 tickthey never marked his work with much at school.[…]These Vs are all the versuses of lifeFrom LEEDS v. DERBY, Black/Whiteand (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 1984by Coal Board MacGregor and the NUM,Hindu/Sikh, soul/body, heart v. mind,East/West, male/female, and the groundthese fixtures are fought on's Man, resignedto hope from his future what his past never found.
16 Dialogue 1. What is it that these crude words are revealing? What is it that this aggro act implies?Giving the dead their xenophobic feelingor just a cri-de-coeur because man dies?So what's a cri-de-coeur, cunt? Can't you speakthe 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 been.She didn't understand yer fucking 'art'!She thought yer fucking poetry obscene!
17 Dialogue 2. – role/dialect reversal can you represent the ones you come from/ separated from by education and language?'Listen, cunt!' I said, 'before you start your jeeringthe 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 allon 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 breath!'You piss-artist skinhead cunt, you wouldn't knowand it doesn't fucking matter if you do,the skin and poet united fucking Rimbaudbut the autre that je est is fucking you.‘Ah've told yer, no more Greek...That's yer last warning!Ah'll boot yer fucking balls to Kingdom Come.They'll find yer cold on t'grave tomorrer morning.So don't speak Greek. Don't treat me like I'm dumb.(the poet’s ‘act of aggro’ – silencing a horrible opera singer with water from a fire hose)
18 Identification? 'OK!' (thinking I had him trapped) 'OK!' 'If you're so proud of it, then sign your namewhen next you're full of HARP and armed with spray,next time you take this short cut from the game.'He took the can, contemptuous, unhurriedand cleared the nozzle and prepared to signthe UNITED sprayed where mam and dad were buried.He aerosolled his name. And it was mine.
19 racism/problems of multiculturalism/PC or problem racism/problems of multiculturalism/PC or problem? today’s skin v poet’s fatherBut why inscribe these graves with CUNTand 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 cricketwith white roses cut from flour-sacks on our caps,with stumps chalked on the coal-grate for our wicket,and every one bought now by 'coloured chaps',dad's most liberal label as he feltsqueezed by the unfamiliar, and fearof foreign food and faces, when he smeltcurry in the shop where he'd bought beer.
20 ‘UNITED’ – sprayed on his parents’ tombstone/football club/metaphor Half versus half, the enemies withinthe heart that can't be whole till they unite.As I stoop to grab the crushed HARP lager tinthe day's already dusk, half dark, half light.That UNITED that I'd wished onto the nationor as reunion for dead parents soon recedes.The word's once more a mindless desecrationby some HARPoholic yob supporting Leeds.
21 Motif of here Comes the Bride (3x)‘love – ‘united’? Home, home to my woman, where the fire's litthese still chilly mid-May evenings, home to you,[…]The ones we choose to love become our anchorMy 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.
22 The Epitaph: self-definition, self-articulation, memory Beneath your feet's a poet, then a pit.Poetry supporter, if you're here to findHow poems can grow from (beat you to it!) SHITfind the beef, the beer, the bread, then look behind.death/the great leveller/material and spiritual unitedremembrance
23 v versus verses victory sign ‘four-letter sign’ red tick at school Heteroglossia (Bakhtin) – plurality of voicessemantic ambivalence – puns and role/uncertainty of lgepersonal memory: fiction or reality? – a recreation of the event (lge – never passive) or political/authorial statementauthor/narrator/character (cf. Fowles)
24 The film, dir. R. Eyre, BBC Channel 4, 1987 – great publicity Teddy Taylor Tory MPappealed to Channel 4chiefs to see sense:”a poem full ofobscenities is clearly soobjectionable that it willlead to the governmentbeing forced to takeaction it would prefer notto have to take.”Charges of obscenity, bullying, misrepresentation, prejudiceGerald 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 beenoffensive, juvenile and, of course, philistine.It should certainly be broadcast.”
25 Tony Harrison in Hungary Lettre (Vol Spring)Szabó T. Anna: HálaadásMesterházi Mónika: A fogfájás (short story)Ferencz Győző: v (excerpts)