NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
JOHN HARRISON: SHUTDOWN FORTNIGHT
Mudfog
c/o Arts Development
the Stables
Stewart Park
Marton
Middlesbrough
TS7 8AR
UK
ISBN 1 899503 75 7
3.50

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JOHN HARRISON: SHUTDOWN FORTNIGHT

First off, I'll admit to being a glutton for this brand of Northern England working-class poetry. The poems in this collection are a bit like the garden shed on the back cover photographed by Alan Turnbull suitably lopsided.

Reading contemporary John Harrison poetry is like attending a meeting with the probation officer or bumping into an old chum from the dog track. There's often a bit of interesting and unfinished business, or some might say gossip, to catch up on.

In the second poem JOHN FROM WORK the poet writes:

 
	I've smoked a lot of cigarettes.
	You've got problems too. 
And that's about it really. If it's all going to lead to an inevitable hunkering down in the parlour corner of a convenient down at heel pub with our bags of crisps and halves of bitter I wouldn't be at all surprised.

One of the best from this smooth black booklet is NIGHTS AT THE MINE I'M ON SECURITY. Harrison is currently or maybe not, so employed at Boulby Potash Mine. Jobs come and go.

 
	The owner flew in, then taxi from Teesside,
	top bloke  from Israel,
	smiles for everyone.

	One day he'll put this place back as it was,
	bulldoze the sheds,
	shot it all down the pit. 
A strong point in Harrison's favour is his ability to have an engaging dialogue with the reader and at the same time with himself. In THE NIGHT-GARDEN the poet spends a restless night worrying about the state of the garden, the state of the planet. He blames the disturbed night on the raucous birds outside his window. The poem commences quietly on going to bed:
	I'm not myself. Flu?
only to end after much dreamland cogitation and cursing of flora and fauna with the self-deprecating observation:
	You going soft?
But the fact is that John Harrison, visiting a neighbourhood in Middlesbrough, home of his publisher Mudfog is WITH SHOPPERS AND NARCOTICS ENTHUSIASTS a long way from going soft. In the poem he observes:
	The rain's set in
which leads to the skewed conclusion 25 lines later:
	Some dodgy people live round here.
Well, that could be the case. And if it is I wouldn't have it any other way. Harrison is just the person to tell about them and the landscape in which they live, work and play.

Yes, there's much fine work in SHUTDOWN FORTNIGHT from the pen of this shrewd and sharp-eyed poet of our times.

reviewer: Gwilym Williams.