Sunday Morning Stranger in Your Bed: Tony Harrison

I saw a call for writers recently asking for “Twitter-sized” poems. I suppose crunching a thought into a 140 character poem is not so bad—after all, a haiku would have great difficulty reaching that length and most of my Word of the Day epigrams fit within this restriction—but it’s the premise that bothers me. Poetry requires form: something to separate it from prose. I’m not denouncing all free-verse and slam poems—I have seen both well-done…on occasion—but I see them as different art “forms” from the intellectual process of crafting chaos with the ordered form of poetry. One man keeping the formal fight alive with humourous couplets is British poet Tony Harrison.

Harrison was recommended to me by a Classical Literature professor at UBC not for any of Harrison’s translations of Greek plays (most notably Hecuba and the Oresteia), but for a poem about the Gulf War. The poem, “A Cold Coming”, is an imagined interview between Harrison and the charred remains of an Iraqi truck driver killed in a missile attack (in the photograph below). The title has lofty origins (swiped from T.S. Eliot’s “Gift of the Magi”), but in the poem it refers to frozen spermatozoa (which he rhymes).

His windscreen wiper like a quill / he’s reaching for to make his will

I then bought a book of his selected poetry, and from it I highly recommend v. and “A Kumquat for John Keats”.

There are many excellent formal poets still alive and writing (…or recently dead). If you have a favourite, please suggest the poet in a comment.

About these ads

About writewithlightning

I'm a published Canadian poet and fiction writer, Tweeting haiku daily @writelightning View all posts by writewithlightning

One response to “Sunday Morning Stranger in Your Bed: Tony Harrison

  • Minjie

    Another great place to discover new poems is the new spoken word poetry album “Poetic License: 100 Poems/100 Performers” featuring Jason Alexander, Patti LuPone, Michael York, Kate Mulgrew, Paul Provenza and 95 other top performers reading a poem of their choosing. If you know anyone who claims that they don’t like poetry, you should get them this album so they can hear the magic that you already see on the page.
    For more info, to read the amazing reviews, or to purchase the album, visit GPRRecords.com.
    “Poetic License” is available for purchase and preview on iTunes. Here’s a link to Part 1 of the album: http://bit.ly/poeticlicense_itunes

    More info:
    Said Trav S.D. on his blog Travalanche:
    “Three of my favorite poems happen to occur all in a row: Poe’s Annabel Lee, Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Tennyson’s Ulysses — it’s like back-to-back hits on the poetry Top 40. Furthermore, the indiscriminate mix of bold-faced names and literary classics produces more than usual interest. Florence Henderson reads Longfellow! Barbara Feldon reads Margaret Atwood! And a long list of others: Christine Baranksi, Jason Alexander, Cynthia Nixon, Charles Busch, Michael York, JoBeth Williams, Paul Provenza, Richard Thomas, Kate Mulgrew, etc etc etc.”

    More Links:
    Twitter:

    http://www.twitter.com/gprrecords

    Facebook:

    http://bit.ly/PoeticLicenseFanPage

    Web Site:

    http://bit.ly/gprrecords

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: