Taking up the persistent question of poetry’s sociopolitical capacities by considering how Harrison’s poems depend on the power of local speech, this article examines how they cast his working-class northern English dialect in meter and rhyme as a way to scrutinize social hierarchies. Marshaling various forms of speech, including his own vernacular, into traditional patterns of poetry, Harrison interrogates classist notions about nonstandard speech and its relation to that tradition while exploring the disturbances produced by class separation. Where poetry scholarship in general and Harrison scholarship in particular often place demotic registers in opposition to traditional verse forms, this article argues that it is precisely the working relationships Harrison finds between verse forms and speech forms that upend hierarchies in his poetry, making new music out of local parlance.
The Rhubarbarian’s Redress: Tony Harrison and the Politics of Speech
William Fogarty is assistant professor of English at the University of Central Florida. His current book manuscript, “Local Tongues: The Politics of Speech in Poetry,” identifies local speech as a dynamic, unexamined transnational poetic resource for bridging aesthetic and sociopolitical realms.
William Fogarty; The Rhubarbarian’s Redress: Tony Harrison and the Politics of Speech. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 June 2020; 66 (2): 207–232. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-8536165
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