Friday, November 25, 2022

Lee Harwood: New Collected Poems: a blurb or mini-essay by Iain Sinclair

The New Collected Poems of Lee Harwood is NOW available. HERE:  Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (

The art of the blurb is not often considered (and I’m a veteran of writing them. Here’s one I like a lot that I did for Alan Baker’s excellent Riverrun: Pages: Alan Baker's Journal of Enlightened Panic (and the EUOIA poets) ( Iain Sinclair has written one for the New Collected Poems Kelvin Corcoran and I have edited from the works of Lee Harwood for publication in January 2023. Unfortunately, we have had to edit Iain’s copy too, in that it is too long, with Iain’s kind permission, but the whole appears on the Shearsman website, but I thought it might be interesting to publish it here as well. 

In Edge of Orison Sinclair makes the observation that the portrait of John Clare below looks like the young Lee Harwood. (You'll see below he looks a bit like the later Harwood!) The thought seems to have percolated into his sensibility, for now he’s operating with a full-blown, but mysterious, analogy between the two writers. I have been reading Clare attentively (to write 14 versions of his sonnets for my ‘English Strain’ project: find one representative post here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Four new versions of John Clare published in Talking About Strawberries (plus videos and links)) and I have to agree there is something in it.

Lee Harwood and John Clare: they come from such different places and times, but they share something we can’t explain, a way of making bright and inevitable a pattern of words, measured sounds, never there before in quite this way, but now present for us, always. And redeemable too. Their poems affect our memories like intimate letters from a stranger. Trust is solicited and willingly given, experience before understanding. Light dances from the white field of the book in our hands. Visions are offered just as they come. That is the beautiful illusion, the uncommon gift. Sequences scroll out, playful, perverse when required, modestly assertive, and in good heart. The captured history of these serial engagements with consciousness lets us think better of ourselves.

That stipple engraving of John Clare by Edward Scriven, a commissioned frontispiece to The Village Minstrel, taken from the portrait painted by William Hilton, brings me back, by some unexplained alchemy, to Lee Harwood. To a certain watchful look, questing beyond occasion, held within the climate of private reverie. Harwood knows he is untouchable in his vulnerability. There are landscapes and there is scenery, the shared room and the mountains climbed with friends. Purity of diction must be capable of ‘hazing the sharpness’ of a familiar horizon.

This new collection is a generously considered gathering of resistant and supple fragments, hard evidence of a life truly lived. We are the beneficiaries of these dazzling transfusions of personality and circumstance. Of remembered and newly encountered detonations of affect. ‘The clarity of such moments,’ Harwood confesses, can never stay still, even when that seems to be the required task.  Love moves and shifts. Through repeated acts of making, it coheres and continues.


Something profound. ‘Harwood knows he is untouchable in his vulnerability,’ is itself almost a visionary remark. Instead of a blurb we have here a mini-essay on one view of the essential qualities of Harwood’s work! We, that is Kelvin and I as editors, and Tony as publisher, would like to thank Iain for this thought-provoking text.

 More on the book, and links to all posts about Lee Harwood on this blog, may be accessed via what I call a hub-post, here: Pages: Lee Harwood: 4 Poems (and a note on them) in Abandoned Playground, ahead of NEW COLLECTED POEMS edited Corcoran and Sheppard (


You may pre-order or order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (

My book on Iain Sinclair, Iain Sinclair is still available here, and elsewhere: 9780746311547: Iain Sinclair (Writers & Their Work) (Writers and Their Work) - Robert Sheppard: 0746311540 - AbeBooks and elsewhere. And here: Iain Sinclair | Liverpool University Press

Listen to the best of Harwood online from here: Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings (


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