a long poem by Tony Harrison, first published in 1985. The title is the abbreviation for ‘versus’, indicating the work's thematic concern with ‘all the versuses of life’, the political, cultural, and personal conflicts characterizing the society of the mid-1980s on which the urgently topical work reflects. Its opening describes Harrison's visit to his parents' grave in a Leeds cemetery where many of the monuments have been desecrated by graffiti. His anger at the semi-literate perpetrators is tempered in the course of surveying the social conditions which make such acts understandable responses to the boredom and frustration of unemployment. A heated debate between the poet and an imagined youth representing the graffitists forms the centre of the work, which subsequently moves towards its conclusion with a meditation on change and the centrality of love to any viable scheme of human values. Drawing dramatic power from its strong charge of personal emotion and encompassing a wide range of acute socio-cultural commentary, v. ranks with the most important longer poems of the post-war era. Its 112 rhymed quatrains consistently display Harrison's technical virtuosity. The frequent use of obscene language which is essential to the work's documentary aspect caused widespread protest when it was presented on television.
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