Tony Harrison

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For other people named Tony Harrison, see Tony Harrison (disambiguation).
Tony Harrison
Born (1937-04-30) 30 April 1937 (age 77)
Leeds, County Borough of Leeds, England
Occupation Poet, dramatist, librettist
Education Classics
Alma mater University of Leeds[1]
Notable awards European Prize for Literature (2010)

Tony Harrison (born 30 April 1937) is an English poet, translator and playwright. He was born in Leeds and he received his education in the classics from Leeds Grammar School and Leeds University.[2] He is one of Britain's foremost verse writers and many of his works have been performed at the Royal National Theatre.[2] He is noted for controversial works such as the poem V, as well as his versions of dramatic works: from ancient Greek such as the tragedies Oresteia and Lysistrata, from French Molière's The Misanthrope, from Middle English The Mysteries.[2] He is also noted for his outspoken views, particularly those on the Iraq War.[2][3][4]

Works[edit]

Adaptation of the English Medieval Mystery Plays, based on the York and Wakefield cycles, The Mysteries, were first performed in 1985 by the Royal National Theatre.[2] Interviewed by Sir Melvyn Bragg for BBC television in 2012, Harrison said: "It was only when I did the Mystery Plays and got Northern actors doing verse, that I felt that I was reclaiming the energy of classical verse in the voices that it was created for."[5]

One of his best-known works is the long poem "V" (1985), written during the miners' strike of 1984–85, and describing a trip to see his parents' grave in a Leeds Cemetery "now littered with beer cans and vandalised by obscene graffiti". The title has several possible interpretations: victory, versus, verse, etc. Proposals to screen a filmed version of "V" by Channel 4 in October 1987 drew howls of outrage from the tabloid press, some broadsheet journalists, and MPs, apparently concerned about the effects its "torrents of obscene language" and "streams of four-letter filth" would have on the nation's youth. Indeed, an Early Day Motion entitled "Television Obscenity" was proposed on 27 October 1987 by a group of Conservative MPs, who condemned Channel 4 and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The motion was opposed only by MP Norman Buchan, who suggested that fellow members had either failed to read or failed to understand the poem. The broadcast went ahead and, after widespread press coverage, the uproar subsided. Gerald Howarth MP said that Harrison was "Probably another bolshie poet wishing to impose his frustrations on the rest of us". When told of this, Harrison retorted that Howarth was "Probably another idiot MP wishing to impose his intellectual limitations on the rest of us".[6]

Reception[edit]

Richard Eyre calls Harrison's 1990 play, The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus "among the five most imaginative pieces of drama in the 90s". Jocelyn Herbert, famous designer of the British theatrical scene, comments that Harrison is aware of the dramatic visual impact of his ideas: "The idea of satyrs jumping out of boxes in Trackers is wonderful for the stage. Some writers just write and have little idea what it will look like, but Tony always knows exactly what he wants."[7]

Edith Hall has written that she is convinced that Harrison's 1998 film-poem Prometheus is "artistic reaction to the fall of the British working class" at the end of the twentieth century,[8][9] and considers it as "the most important adaptation of classical myth for a radical political purpose for years" and Harrison's "most brilliant artwork, with the possible exception of his stage play The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus".[8]

Professor Roger Griffin Department of History Oxford Brookes University in his paper The palingenetic political community: rethinking the legitimation of totalitarian regimes in inter-war Europe calls Harrison's film-poem "magnificent" and comments that he is trying to tell his audience "To avoid falling prey to the collective mirage of a new order, to stay wide awake while others succumb to the lethe of the group mind, to resist the gaze of modern Gorgons".[10]

Bibliography[edit]

Poetry[edit]

  • 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)

Pamphlets[edit]

  • Earthworks (1964)
  • Newcastle is Peru (1969)
  • Bow Down (1977)
  • Looking up (1979)
  • The Fire Gap (1985)
  • Anno Forty Two: Seven New Poems (1987)
  • Ten Sonnets from The school of Eloquence (1987)
  • A cold Coming (1991)
  • A Maybe Day in Kazakhstan (1994)

Film and television[edit]

Theatre and opera[edit]

About Tony Harrison and his poetry[edit]

  • Astley, Neil, ed. (1991). Tony Harrison. Bloodaxe Critical Anthologies 1. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 1-85224-079-2. 
  • Byrne, Sandie, ed. (1997). Tony Harrison: Loiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-1981-8430-1. 
  • Rutter, Carol (1995). Permanently Bard. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 1-85224-262-0. 
  • Sheehan, Sean. The poetry of Tony Harrison. Focus On. London: Greenwich Exchange. ISBN 978-1-906075-15-6. 
  • Spencer, Luke (1994). The Poetry of Tony Harrison. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. ISBN 0-7450-1588-3. 

Literary prizes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alan Rosenthal (2007). Writing, directing, and producing documentary films and videos. SIU Press. pp. 78–. ISBN 978-0-8093-8772-4. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Dominic Head (26 January 2006). The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge University Press. pp. 488–489. ISBN 978-0-521-83179-6. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "HARRISON, Tony". Who's Who 2012. A & C Black. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Harrison, Tony (1991). A Cold Coming. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 1-85224-186-1. 
  5. ^ "Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture: Episode 2, BBC2, broadcast 2 March 2012
  6. ^ "The Blagger's Guide To: Tony Harrison". The Independent. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Guardian Profile: Tony Harrison Man of mysteries". The Guardian. 1 April 2000. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Edith Hall. "Tony Harrison's Prometheus: A View from the Left". "...an essential requirement in a film where the most unlikely wheezing ex-miner is slowly made to represent Prometheus himself" 
  9. ^ Lorna Hardwick (15 May 2003). Reception Studies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-19-852865-4. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Roger Griffin (December 2002). "The palingenetic political community: rethinking the legitimation of totalitarian regimes in inter-war Europe.". Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 3 (3): 24–43. doi:10.1080/714005484. 
  11. ^ BFI. "The Gaze of the Gorgon". 
  12. ^ Merten, Karl (2004). Antike Mythen – Mythos Antike: posthumanistische Antikerezeption in der englischsprachigen Lyrik der Gegenwart. Wilhelm Fink Verlag. pp. 105–106. ISBN 978-3-7705-3871-3. Retrieved 4 May 2013. "der Räume und Kunstwerke des Achilleions hat, von entsprechendem dokumentarischem Filmmaterial begleitet." 
  13. ^ The Wildred Owen Association
  14. ^ Alison Flood, "Tony Harrison wins inaugural PEN/Pinter prize." 22 September 2009, Guardian

External links[edit]