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V. and Other Poems by Tony Harrison

V. and Other Poems

by Tony Harrison

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I read a portion of this book (V) for a class a few semesters ago, and while generally I'm willing to believe in the educated observations and criticisms of my professors, I have to say that in this case the professor failed to convince me that there's much here---even after a three hour seminar discussion of the author's work. Today, while waiting for a meeting and unable to concentrate on more pressing work, I finally picked up the work and finished it....more out of stubbornness than interest, however, I should admit.

For me, the work here comes across as relatively flat, too often sing-songy or gimmicky, and old-fashioned in both structure and conception. On some level, I can buy the argument that Harrison is driving forth a purposefully working-class conception of poetic material and language, but this comes across as dumbed down---and perhaps, if the goal is a working class focus AND audience, also condescending. Even today, finishing the book and attempting to keep an open mind, I find it hard to believe that Harrison's work is in any way cutting edge or worth studying.

All that said, and while the book obviously wasn't for me, I will say that I found the second portion of the book---the "American Poems"--less forced than the earlier poems in the book, and that there's even one there which I rather enjoyed, though I doubt I'd find it worth returning to as more than a curiosity.

If you are looking for contemporary rhyming poetry that's being given some critical attention (again, for goal/subject as much as technique or construction, as far as I know), though I can't say how much, Harrison's V might be worth exploring. Otherwise, unless you simply want rhyming poetry or poetry that, on some level, explores dialect, I wouldn't recommend it. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Mar 10, 2011 |
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