I was sad to hear the news of Lee Harwood’s passing a few days ago (July 26th). He was an excellent poet and a central figure in British poetry (60s – present – and onward). There are and will be many tributes written by those who knew him and his work. These people will have a better understanding of his work and his lasting influence. here are a few those.
I am lucky enough to have a number of Harwood’s early collections on my shelf and one that stands out for me is ‘The Man with Blue Eyes’ which was published in 1966 by Angel Hair.
The cover is by Joe Brainard which, along with the poems inside, shows how Harwood was writing out of and with certain aspects of American poetry most notably New York School and Beat.
the poem ‘journal. 20 may 65 london’ which was written a couple of week prior to The International Poetry Incarnation which saw the likes of Allen Ginsberg read to an audience of seven thousand people in the Royal Albert Hall. The poem itself clearly takes Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ as a starting point and reads “the new angels ……. / oh fuck these angels / an eye closed half vision / of black smoke clouds” and goes on “angel body twisted like rope / old homestead photos of fishermen / plaiting rope with creaking / papuan wood machinery”.
Another poem in the collection worth mentioning is the first one which is untitled but opens “as your eyes are blue / you move me – & the thought of you – / I imitate you”. There is also a short preface by Peter Scheldahl which states “Harwood writes about memories that refuse to fade and dreams that are never nearly enough” and goes on to describe the poems as “elegant and full of grace, which makes their human intensities bearable and their existence such a cause for awe and celebration”.
this book is now long out of print but for those wishing to read more you can buy his ‘Collected Poems’ from Shearsman here
or a shorter (cheaper) ‘Selected Poems’ also from Shearsman here