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About this poet

Tony Harrison was born in Leeds, England, on April 30, 1937. He is the author of several books of poetry, including Laureate's Block (Penguin, 2000); The Shadow of Hiroshima (1995), winner of the William Heinemann Prize; The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992), which was awarded the Whitbread Prize for Poetry; and Selected Poems (1984).

He is also a noted translator, dramatist, and librettist whose works have been performed by Britain's National Theatre and the New York Metropolitan Opera. Harrison is also a maker of television and film poetry.

His honors include a Unesco fellowship, the Faber Memorial Award, a U.S. Bicentennial fellowship, and the European Poetry Translation Prize. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984. He lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.

Long Distance II

Tony Harrison, 1937
Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in.  You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call.

From Selected Poems by Tony Harrison, published by Penguin Books, Ltd. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.

From Selected Poems by Tony Harrison, published by Penguin Books, Ltd. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.

Tony Harrison

Tony Harrison

Tony Harrison was born in Leeds, England, in 1937.