Vs

March 7, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Distractions | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,

About every six months, an arts editor on one of our more ‘serious’ newspapers decides it’s time to reheat an article about the death/resurrection of poetry and its importance in our culture. This latest instalment comes from the Independent, who ask a few famous people to name their favourite poem. Whilst it’s not often I agree with a government minister, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s choice of Tony Harrison’s magnificent long poem V is one I can most certainly endorse. In this extract, you join Harrison as he surveys the vandalism in the Leeds cemetary where his parents are buried:

Vs sprayed on the run at such a lick,
the sprayer master of his flourished tool,
get short-armed on the left like that red tick
they never marked his work with much at school.

Half this skinhead’s age but with approval
I helped whitewash a V on a brick wall.
No one clamoured in the press for its removal
or thought the sign, in wartime, rude at all.

These Vs are all the versuses of life
From LEEDS v. DERBY, Black/White
and (as I’ve known to my cost) man v. wife,
Communist v. Fascist, Left v. Right,

Class v. class as bitter as before,
the unending violence of US and THEM,
personified in 1984
by Coal Board MacGregor and the NUM,

Hindu/Sikh, soul/body, heart v. mind,
East/West, male/female, and the ground
these fixtures are fought on’s Man, resigned
to hope from his future what his past never found.

The prospects for the present aren’t too grand
when a swastika with NF (National Front)’s
sprayed on a grave, to which another hand
has added, in a reddish colour, CUNTS.

Which is, I grant, the word that springs to mind,
when going to clear the weeds and rubbish thrown
on the family plot by football fans, I find
UNITED graffitied on my parents’ stone

Read the whole thing here, then buy here.

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