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This report is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

'V' deja-vu Martin Jarrett-Kerr
Recently we experienced again the ridiculous spectacle of the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality (Macaulay). The occasion was the publication, and worse, the threatened broadcasting, of a poem by Mr Tony Harrison, entitled "V". The offence was the liberal use throughout the poem of four-letter words and other obscenities. Predictably Mrs Mary Whitehouse led the team of protestors, and was joined by other defenders of verbal purity, including Lord Tonypandy, who unfortunately got one of his four-letter words wrong ("the foul language in Mr Harrison's peom.") [Times, Nov. 2, 1987]. The occasion and circumstances of the poem's composition seem to have counted for nothing among the protestors: the fact that the poem was written precisely as itself a protest against the obscenities and blasphemies which Mr Harrison found, sprayed with aerosol, not only on his parents' grave, but on other headstones and monuments, by supporters of Leeds United F.C. Mr Harrison did not join in the controversy - he was out of the country at the time, and actually seated in the great Greek Theatre of Ephesus (41-54 AD) 'brooding' he says, 'about Greek Plays.' His only intervention was in a different controversy: that of the retention of Latin in the curriculum of schools. "Without the many years I spent acquiring Latin and Greek," he says, in a letter also to The Times [3.xi.87] "I should never have been able to compose my poem V." And he signs himself 'President, the Classical Association of Great Britain.' ...


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