Monthly Archives: July 2015

My S(h)elf: Lee Harwood

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. 

http://hyperallergic.com/161711/why-i-am-a-member-of-the-lee-harwood-fan-club/

http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/5699/29/Lee-Harwood

http://tearsinthefence.com/blog/

 

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.

WIN_20150730_161352

 

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

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Giant Tiger Land Snail by Ellen Dillon

Giant Tiger Land Snail

I say the earth is porous

and we fall constantly”

                        Peter Gizzi

 

Achatina achatina

men adore you,

your muscular

meaty foot,

fibonacci-spiralled shell,

caravan of dreams for

a mollusc on the move.

Who wouldn’t

want to be you?

 

Aeroplanes to America

trace snail-trails

in the sky, curved

nematodes of cloud

that crawl inside if

we’re not careful,

crossing blood-brain

barrier, inflaming matter,

partly paralyzing.

 

Airing is no prophylactic,

we must be vigilant in tracking

vectors of parasitic brain-disease

lurking in the cumulonimbus.

All membranes are permeable

(some porous, even) offering

scant protection from that

which is tiny, furtive, protein-

sheathed and quietly out to get us.

 

 

[April ‘13/ July ’15]

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