I’m sure both Kelvin and I can ‘hear’ Lee Harwood ‘reading’ whenever we peruse a Harwood poem, even one we have not actually heard him speak. We can guess how he would have read it. This may be true of any writer, but it has been said before – most notably by William Rowe – that conversational (and often incomplete) segments are a kind of prosody in this work. Harwood signals it on the page, but this signalling cannot quite replace an actual audial, aural, experience of the work.
‘There is a direct relationship between the compositional processes of a Lee Harwood poem and the way in which Lee Harwood the poet read his poetry,’ we say in our introduction to our New Collected Poems (though the words, and the thoughts, are Kelvin’s here). ‘Both work through an apparent simplicity which is typically intimated as the almost innocent disguise and disavowal of complexity and significance. Through collage and various forms of declared and undeclared incompletion, the reader or listener is gently taken unknowingly into complex and charged moments of recognition …’ We add: ‘This fundamental feature makes hearing Lee Harwood read important,’ though that’s not anything we can obviously supply in our edition (a CD included or a set of web connections, a QR code would have been great). ‘Readings can be found on YouTube of varying technical proficiency. The recordings in the British Library archive are extensive but not currently available online.’ (But, it is worth adding here, they will be!) The PennSound collection of readings is a major resource covering 40 years of Harwood’s poetry, and a guide to where other readings are available … The calm, measured, unostentatious delivery introduces the ambition and confidence of the poem. This is not a sort of coyness or false modesty but rather an acknowledgement of the scope and depth of the lyric as language at its most intense and meaningful.’
The link Lee Harwood (upenn.edu) takes you to FOUR items containing Harwood reading:
ONE Lee Harwood and Ange Mlinko reading, St. Mark’s Church, NY, December 9, 1998
TWO The Chart Table, Lee Harwood: Poems 1965-2002.
This is the recording released as Rockdrill CD published by the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Optic Nerve for Birkbeck College, 2004, and indeed the recordings stretch those years, the first item being from the Steam LP of 1965 and (used without permission, I note) ‘Animal Days’, at least, taken from the tape magazine 1983, Supranormal Cassettes, which I published in 1976 (a whole 20+ minutes of it). It’s a nice ‘selected poems’ (the texts also stretching across the years of recording! They are, in order, with tracking:
As Your Eyes Are Blue (3:47)
The Doomed Fleet (8:13)
Question of Geography (2:17)
The Words (2:25)
Animal Days (5:55)
One, Two, Three (4:12)
You Essai. You O.K. (8:42)
Summer Solstice (3:12)
African Violets (5:37)
The Rowan Tree (4:32)
For Paul / Coming Out of Winter (1:28)
October Night (3:01)
Czech Dream (4:39)
Late Journeys (1:13)
The Wind Rises (4:32)
Salt Water (3:58)
Hampton Court Shelter (2:46)
THREE Reading at the Shearsman Reading Series at Swedenborg Hall, London, June 17, 2008
FOUR "Chanson Tzara" with Lee Harwood by Alexander Baker, 2012
NOW ANOTHER NICE SET IN FOUR VIDS Lee’s quietly assertive delivery caused some problems with recording, as you will find looking online elsewhere, particularly with video performances, where the microphone is positioned where the camera is (i.e. at a distance from Lee). Often one can see him, but you cannot hear him clearly. BUT the following recordings, from Sound Eye 2005, in Cork, probably recorded by cris cheek, are clear and entertaining, and are embedded from YouTube. Each is only a few minutes long.
Part one begins with ‘As Your Eyes are Blue’
Part two begins with ‘Dream of Blue Paint’
Part three begins with ‘The wind rises’
Part four begins with‘Hampton Court Shelter’
If you work your way through these recordings, with our edition to hand, you will appreciate, I hope, what we have described above.
Read about the BL Harwood and Cobbing archives here: Pages: POEMS IN PROGRESS : a new book of poets' drafts from the British Library (featuring Lee Harwood and Bob Cobbing) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com).
You may order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (shearsman.com)
Locating Robert Sheppard: email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com