Harry Man (b. 1982) holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Winner of the 2014 Bridges of Struga Award, his first pamphlet Lift (Tall Lighthouse) was nominated for 'Best Pamphlet' in the 2014 Sabotage Awards. The previous year he won second prize in the PEN International Made Up Words Competition and third prize in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Man’s work has been widely anthologised, most recently in The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood, Coin Opera 2 and Rewiring History. Lift has garnered praise from T. S. Eliot Award winners Sinéad Morrissey and George Szirtes, the latter stating, "The poems are packed to bursting with ideas... Harry Man is one of a young generation of poets defining their own ground and changing ours."
In Britain, Harry Man stands out a new and exciting voice, tackling scientific and urbane themes with electric language, lyricism and humour – whether imagining the Facebook page of the planet Earth as it moves from era to era, "Microraptors, Hadrosaurs, Flowering Plants and Massive Asteroid joined the network 'Goodness Cretaceous Great Ball of Fire,'" or drawing out the love story at the heart of a tale of missing identity, "Sue / there are days I don’t believe in doubles or daydreams / when you’re behind every windscreen of every car coming the other way." This is Simon Armitage’s Zoom remade for the 21st Century, as the planet "turns in the depths / like a cat’s eye limned / by a distant headlight." "A valuable trait of Man's poetry is the audacity through which he manages to find a poetic way in, including seemingly non-poetic topics through his linguistic games and a neo-avant-garde style, which makes his poetry direct, communicative and of current interest." (Slave Gjorgo Dimoski, Chairman, Struga Poetry Evenings).
Harry Man has collaborated with his long term partner, the contemporary dance choreographer Jennifer Essex for The London College of Fashion as well as a number of fellow poets, including a long-standing series with the poet Kirsten Irving as part of S. J. Fowler’s 'Camarades' and 'Auld Enemies' projects.
Starting out as a spoken work performer in 2003, Man’s work might well "owe a debt to spoken word poetry" (The Journal) but if it does, then it is also interested in others who have straddled page and stage such as Alice Oswald and Glyn Maxwell, his mentor. An environmental thread runs through his work. Man has written about the steep collapse in British nightingale populations, as well as the Norfolk Hawker, an endangered dragonfly, red-listed on the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan. In late 2014, he curated an ecologically-focussed poetry reading in London’s Poetry Café, with readers including Inua Ellams, Holly Corfield Carr, Tom Chivers and Karen McCarthy Woolf. The same year, Harry Man was awarded a Grant for the Arts from Arts Council England to produce new work on endangered species throughout the UK. His new pamphlet from Sidekick Books, titled Finders Keepers, is a collaboration with Sophie Gainsley and is due to be published in late 2015.
"The poems themselves have been created from the raw material of interviews with conservationists and residents local to the area in which each species – each beetle, tree, bat, bee, fish, moss and dragonfly and so on lives... there’s so much on the UK’s biodiversity action plan list that when I first went through it, it made an incredibly strong impression – nature doesn’t have a PR man in a thick pink kipper tie giving you the hard sell – there’s no such thing, no spokesperson, you really have to go out into the wilds and traipse around, leave the front door, get muddy, get up to your knees in the water and the bog and the reeds and see for yourself... I’m really thrilled to be working with Sophie [Gainsley]. She illustrates an award-winning online poetry journal over here called Poems in Which and they’ve published work by poets including Mark Waldron, Claire Trévien, Rebecca Tamas and Chrissy Williams... I saw some of her illustrations, and they’re so intricately drawn, with a sense of personality that doesn’t feel strained or anthropocentric – they make you double-take and pause, and take your time. Sophie was very interested in doing something about endangered species and so when we did meet, we’d barely said hello before we were already onto the subject of the types of crayfish living in London canals... It will be a very important, very urgent thing to have done, and special to own, and I’m very lucky to have received the funding from the Arts Council, and proud to be working on it."
The white artery of your spine
hovers beneath a butterfly’s ghost;
wings budding into flight
twice a second, heartbeat by heartbeat.
The isthmus of your foot kicks in the fluid –
the pressure of the sensor is ticklish.
With the end of his biro the doctor
circles your magnified hand gloved in light
and this shimmer, this afterthought of air
in the trees, is the breath of your mother.
Night-blind you will fumble back
to its anthem through the clicks
of your hardening head.
This song, secret as a light switch,
is how your breathing will be.
The warmth of my wrist on your belly;
your pulse and mine in time –
the first of your strengths is to be loved.
/ Lines Derived from Minecraft Player Queries
Have you ever spawned like this,
clouds passing through your building
and a blocky dog that will not die
and your wheat disappearing?
Today I checked out the far lands.
What is the best use for gold? Apples?
What do you think the future will be like?
The slow pigs, and 1.6 horses.
Will the air be a fluid like lava?
Will the best trap for a diamond
still be lagging after a while,
or a sweet new skin made just for me?
My skeleton is too fast.
There are so many invisible monsters after death.
I am sick of searching for saddles.
I have a question for you guys,
how rare are villages?
/ Nightingale is
Between 1995 and 2009, the British Nightingale population decreased by 57%.
At the current rate of decline, within 15 years the British Nightingale will be extinct.
In practice this nightingale's words swerve, herded into home video
air-stuffled foreground wall sound, the wind that wears at altitude
the aural cavities of avian hearing in the peace from the birch
where wash is a verb of weatherfront heard while circling
the circuit of hand-me-down hunting grounds, microscoping
the Medway-soaked plantain for what itches in the ultraviolet,
signals aeronautic, arcs synaptic across the hindbrain, midbrain,
forebrain, hover-held, a fulgurite voice-print following-fit phrase
memorised in the buffered bee-mind reckoning the rote intones
the thatch calyx of nest and the skull-vaulted song in air sacs
stacks the socketing of gases that surge-electric, sublate,
regulated by the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the stomach,
heart and lungs, the carrier wave of pulse is gyroscopic
through curves, curves of the skin-thick crown coast-magnetic,
less dead cert, but surfs a feeling for North, Norfolk, Shaker’s Wood,
next crests hemispheres, never blackening out, dips to pitch, downs
the tent of its wings, falls with the grain of the wind, a skiff skirting
the transparent cerebella of high canopies, weighing sail-search
with why, whichever perch works to see what kill comes
if it comes to kill first and shudders bursts of nerved stuttering,
the head saccading for the sake of the eye, the sinuses hum
in syrinx territory calls, chiaroscuro, resonant, stridulating
lift ululatations, Senegambian, the wind changes —
you hear it; the nightingale, a female singing in nervous laughter,
a musical birthday card addressed to the dead,
a holiday-maker’s car alarm – loud and long and penetrating
and worrying between wanting attention and warning,
breaking off into an uneasy peace.
/ The Physics of Runco’s Hair
And then there were clocks that grew charge at his finger,
the life-giving voltage turning time to a series of LCD 8s
and a dandruff-sized spark snapping in a classroom, so much
for the ruler twisted to destruction to imitate the sound.
And Runco’s hands on the Van de Graaf generator, the strands
of his pudding bowl hair rising off him like curiosity,
turning a fat smile towards and away, towards and away
unbelieving for the half an hour or more
Mr McPherson calmed him with diagrams. You ought to relax
now, earth yourself before selecting a pen, opening a door.
n. one of the hundreds of people who look like Sue from far away, but are in fact strangers.
Cottoning on too late, the Herne Hill train sparking slow
away into the sleet, that you are not you, but a telesue
coming in from the wings of the platform to play a cameo,
and I remember the background buzz of a fancy dress shop
as past tense as your maiden name, the pop and slup
of trying on fancy dress masks of cow heads, stormtroopers
and elven faces – shrieks as the elastics stripped our hair, stooped
almost kissing as I freed you and you freed me, and lost touch.
Now you’re just a Yahoo email address and a year, a smudge
of a photo from that Halloween party, you and your Carlsberg
leaning focusless into the frame, and here in the sleet the telesue
lips a favourite-coloured scarf against the wind, but Sue, real Sue
there are days I don’t believe in doubles or daydreams,
when you’re behind every windscreen of every car coming the other way.
Born on 22nd April 454 billion BC You and Gravity are now friends
Your hometown in Spiral Arm, Milky Way is ‘Solar System’ 0 like this
The Moon has indicated that you are brothers Confirm? Accept? Block?
Hi EARTH I would like to add you to my professional network
Fossil Record has indicated that you worked at ‘Multi Cellular Life’
Archaea and Eucaryota shared a link on your timeline
Bacteria and Eucaryota shared a link on your timeline
VertebrateAnimals suggested adding PrimitiveFish to your list of friends
Today is Ozone Layer’s birthday. UV Radiation ‘Ozone - get a life’
Vendian Supercontinent commented on your status ‘Great atmosphere’ Like?
You have successfully joined ‘Cratons and Vendian Supercontinent’ network
Ozone Layer invited you to an event ‘Party on the surface, UV is BLOCKED!’
Unknown invited you to the event ‘The Ordovician–Silurian Mass Extinction’ Block
requests from this application? Activity from Unknown will not appear in your timeline
Eurasia, Antarctica, India and NorthAmerica recently joined Pangaea in your network
Early Mammals, Reptiles, Seeds and 700 million others are now your friends
You have successfully changed your cover picture to ‘OneBigGreenblob.jpg’ Like?
Sponsored Devonian Period likes ‘Great Dying & Adaptive Radiation on the Tree of Life’
You are attending ‘Great Dying & Adaptive Radiation on the Tree of Life’
Remaining Insects read an article on the Daily Mail ’Primitive Mammals to Block
Access to as Many Deceased Permian-Triassic era Facebook Profiles as They Like’
Archosaurs and LatePermianPeriod changed ‘In a relationship’ on their timelines
to ‘It’s complicated’ You and Severe Volcanism are now friends
Sunlight ‘Is Severe Volcanism blocking me? FFS This is a *social* network!’
Hi EARTH I would like to add you to my professional network
Shrew-like Skeletons has indicated you worked at ‘Slow Recovery of Mammalian Life’
You and The First Birds are now friends You and Stegosaurus are now friends
Vast Swamps and Prehistoric Forests joined I Secretly Want Earth to Be a Sludgy Wood Block
New message from Dinosaurs 150 million years ago – We RULE ur time lein
Therapsida maybe attending ‘Evolving into Early Hominids’ in 100 million years - Like?
Gondwana went from being ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ near IapteusOcean 0 like this
Microraptors, Hadrosaurs, FloweringPlants and MassiveAsteroid joined the network
‘Goodness Cretaceous Great Ball of Fire’ Massive Asteroid poked you on your timeline
Marsupials commented on their own status ’So long 75% of my friends FML’
Arboreal Primates has a new role at ‘Becoming Homo Habilis: Off the Starting Blocks’
People You May Know: See All Neanderthals. The Recent Ice Age is a mutual friend
Humans like Life. Humans and Global Warming are now connected.
Sunlight Block this person? Report this? ‘SETI’ Join networking group?
Check out your timeline. What’s on your mind? Earth more friends are waiting.
/ Re-entry of the First American in Space
Flight of Mercury-Redstone 3, Callsign Freedom 7
Command Pilot: Alan B. Shepherd Jr
May 5th 1961
The poets were wrong:
the ocean is not unkillable,
the snow is not eternal.
The Earth turns in the depths
like a cat’s eye limned
by a distant headlight.
Then there’s this ionized,
candescent, compression of air,
a husk of oxygen and nitrogen.
The view from inside a marshmallow
in a camp fire, all blue and hot,
fizzing into plasma, circumzenithal.
Through the plumes,
black horizons, perfectly skyless
spinning above the afternoon,
glittering pack-ice clouds, below
or above these glass deltas of ocean
releaseless, frozen sleek,
at 17,000 miles per hour, tilting away
and back into the viewport,
the altimeter turning anti-clockwise
and your face pinches itself,
you reach against gravity for the drogue
handle, twisting it and a noise
like the crump of a burst tyre
behind your head, in the crosshairs
the jellyfish red and whites
of the main capsule parachute…
lurching against the straps.
Splashdown with no smell of salt
but foam – how it is, polystyrene
and car seats, and your own breath
in the helmet, with a tap-water plitter
that could be the heat shield, your ears
adjusting, or a ruptured seal,
the panel shows cabin pressure
is green. Zoopraxiascopic shadows—
It is, helicopter blades, shuttering.
Over the clanks of the Atlantic
naming the sound of home,
“Thank you very much, it’s a beautiful day.”