“Long Distance I” by Tony Harrison (poetry reading)

June 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Distance Long Poem Relationship

Tony’s Dad is distraught with grief over the death of his wife. He always “gets out of the wrong side of the bed”, meaning he wakes up in a bad temper which lasts the whole day, his life’s “all grouse”, meaning he constantly complains – but never makes direct references to his dead wife. There is little that Tony can do or say. It may be hard for outsiders to understand the way Yorkshiremen treat one another. When his Dad says about the sweets, “you can have ‘em back”, that’s a very common saying, just emphasising that they’re no use. It is often said about things that can’t be taken back. He complains that food is unpalatable because he can’t sweeten it. Yorkshiremen treat one another brusquely; it’s “not done” to show sentiment. The poem must sound very strange to Americans who would be effusively sympathetic – but that would be embarrassing and unwelcome. The returned sweets are just a way of saying , “I don’t want to be consoled” I’ve seen this poem misinterpreted to mean that Tony doesn’t care. Tony is bereaved too and helpless because has no role to play. His Dad doesn’t want help, he wants to fiercely embrace his grief. It is a bleak and accurate portrayal of the relationship between a son and his father. His Dad’s got a “broad Yorkshire” accent (which I hope I delivered well enough). When he says “carrots choke us” he means “carrots choke me”, as Yorkshire people do as in, for instance, “Give us your hand” or “Look us in t’eye and say that”. Yorkshire people still

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4 Comments on "“Long Distance I” by Tony Harrison (poetry reading)"

  1. 19ChloeLauren91 on Tue, 7th Jun 2011 5:46 am 

    Could you please do Harrison’s Mimmo Perrella Non e Piu?

  2. hyacinthegirl on Tue, 7th Jun 2011 6:26 am 

    i was hoping you would do some more tony harrison! thanks.

  3. andrewnorris1 on Tue, 7th Jun 2011 6:30 am 

    I really like T.H’s work, especially his touching poems about his parents. You read exceptionally well and your notes concerning the dialect and the poem are thoughtful and illuminating. I give you 5*

  4. LittleBookNook on Tue, 7th Jun 2011 7:30 am 

    Wonderful reading, your delivery of the Yorkshire accent was well done. You brought the poem to life beautifully. I was able to more clearly understand the dynamic of the relationship between father and son, with the help of your commentary. Thankyou.

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