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This review is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

TH &/v TV TONY HARRISON, Collected Film Poetry (Faber & Faber) £20

Tony Harrison is not Poet Laureate, nor would want to be. His Collected Film Poetry, published to coincide with the Collected Poems in the year of his seventieth birthday, stakes a claim to a different kind of public poetry. The introductions to the volume, by Harrison and the director Peter Symes, seek to establish the film poem as an heir to Greek tragedy: available to all strata of society, and presenting its audience with the darkest aspects of human life. Prometheus (1998) is loosely based on Prometheus Bound, and the script of The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992) bears as its epigraph a quotation from Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy: 'Art forces us to gaze into the horror of existence, yet without being turned to stone by the vision.' Harrison's 1988 presidential address to the Classical Association, as Symes reminds us, called for a 'rebirth of tragedy'. Gaze of the Gorgon provides Harrison's own paraphrase of Nietzsche, and a mission statement for these films:

Gaze and create. If art can't cope
it's just another form of dope,
and leaves the Gorgon in control
of all the freedoms of the soul.


The couplets accompany images of oblivious opera goers passing heroin users in a Frankfurt park. It is not just the adequacy of opera, poetry and other forms of ...


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