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Tony Harrison, the Gulf War and the poetry of protest

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Anne Whitehead



This article reads Tony Harrison's 'A Cold Coming' as a key contemporary anti-war poem, following its (re)publication in the Guardian on the eve of the anti-war marches to protest against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Read in relation to Kenneth Jarecke's photograph of the dead Iraqi to which it refers, the poem offers a response to violence that urges reflection and self-reflexivity as viable alternatives to retaliation. I argue that Harrison's inclusion of 'A Cold Coming' in The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992) encourages the reader to question her own relation to the petrifying 'Medusa' of modern warfare. In his reference to Wilfred Owen's 'Strange Meeting" Harrison self-consciously writes in a tradition of anti-war poetry. I suggest, however, that Harrison implicitly critiques Owen's emphasis on pity as a response to war because it is most powerfully evoked in response to the suffering of an individual. 'A Cold Coming' nevertheless acts powerfully as anti-war poetry in asserting the life of the anonymous Iraqi as worthy of being remembered and mourned - as a life that counts politically.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Textual Practice

Year: 2005

Volume: 19

Issue: 2

Pages: 349-+

ISSN (print): 0950-236X

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1308

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09502360500091618


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