Three Poems by Will Harris



My granddad introduced me to shallots, which he would fry 

in butter with chopped potatoes. I tried to write about this


but a friend said I’d made a Heaneyesque fetish of the word 

shallot – or was it a reference to ‘The Lady of Shalott’? 


When Granddad died I turned to Schopenhauer. I thought 

only suffering was real and happiness pain’s absence. 


I convinced myself that art should draw from the well 

of its own making, as when Hart Crane sings the silken skilled 


transmemberment of song, his pained voice carrying across 

(or through) unmaimed. No one should have to say they’re sad.





I know I should get rid of things, ‘let go’,

so I start making piles of paper to be

sifted through and (maybe) disposed of 

when among my university notes – most of

them angular, angry doodles – I find 

this squib: the heart’s wax, soft enough 

to show the slightest mark and deep 

enough for it to last. Which is the kind 

of bullshit I once scribbled half-asleep 

in lecture halls when I was bored, nearly 

twenty – stalling – weltering in stuff

I should have left behind, like my blurred

love of high modernism, its terrible belief

in progress, a world where NO PART

CAN BE REDUNDANT. Oh the heart…

I don’t know if technology gives our brief

epiphanies more/less value. If I wrote

it now I’d be more candid, try to quote

myself. In Shepherd’s Bush, a green-

shirted man eats a kebab with his phone 

propped up in front of him – a Skype 

image of a room with pear-coloured 

wallpaper, a woman shouting off-screen. 

The heart’s not wax, it’s fucking stone

and if the past can’t be escaped I hope 

it smothers me – slowly – before letting go.



Paradise Lost: Book IX


I dozed, woke up, the forecast looking grim

– Florida tilted towards Trump – then dozed

again and woke hours later as a scrim

of cloud loured above me, metamorphosed

into – what? Figures weirdly glitched.

That morning, teaching Milton, I steered close 

to being explicit: How was it breached,

the Garden? The moment they let evil in?

Or maybe Paradise itself was fixed?

But for Milton, I said, it makes no sense

to think that good and evil are opposed;

dark can’t be driven out, or shame unmixed

from pleasure. Forget raking over sins.

Think of despair, the lengths to which it goes.



Will Harris co-edits the small press 13 Pages and helps organise The Poetry Inquisition. His poems have been published in The Poetry ReviewThe White Review and The Rialto, where he is an Assistant Editor. His debut pamphlet is forthcoming from HappenStance. He is also a fellow of the Complete Works III, and will be published as part of the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation later this year.



Image credit: Jessie Williams

Leave a Reply