Will Harris writes beautifully. Every line of his prose (as can be on his excellent blog) and poetry portrays the intense nature of his relationship with language. At times he plays with words, at others he argues with them. Sometimes he savours their touch, sometimes he pokes fun. Deep down, he just loves them.
Many critics will rightly pick up on his mixed-race heritage and knack for a limpid narrative, combined with his ambiguous sense of home and belonging. However, his love for words, running throughout his first pamphlet, All This Is Implied (HappenStance Press, 2017), is what marks Harris out as a poet on the rise who understands profoundly a fundamental aspect of his art.
It’s all very well to make such statements, but evidence is required to back them up. Here’s an example, taken from “Mother’s Country”, one of the pamphlet’s pivotal poems in thematic terms but also a significant display of poetic dexterity, as is shown by the closing lines:
“…After years of her urging
me to go, me holding back,
I have no more excuses.”
Harris’ placement of “me holding back” is exquisite. It means that the sentence’s main verb and clause are also held back, grammar mirroring semantics, while its delicate repetition of the pronoun heightens tension before delivering the poem’s final, explosive line.
Another important quality of this extract is that it it achieves its aims without any obvious fireworks or flashiness. No allusions, no startling images are required. It shows us a poet with a delicate feel for the flow of language.
Of course, there are inevitable missed steps at certain moments in the pamphlet. For instance, when straining for effect, Harris tends towards a linguistic tic of forming clumps of three consecutive stressed syllables, as in:
forgotten harms grow spores
In this case, “harms grow spores” makes things unnecessarily awkward for the reader.
Nevertheless, or maybe even as a consequence of these tiny imperfections among such delicious mouthfuls, All This Is Implied remains a joy. Above all, it’s a terrific introduction to a poet who’s sure to build a strong reputation in U.K. poetry over the coming years.