Monday, August 01, 2005

Harry Potter, Poet

I stumbled across this at the TLS: it's good enough to quote at length:
From NB, July 29

A bibliomane friend from North of the border has sent us The Singer Passes, a collection of poems published in Glasgow in 1934. The author is Harry Potter. Greater Rowlingologists than we have no doubt pondered the question of how the bespectacled boy got his name, but none, so far as we know, has considered the likelihood that the original is an early twentieth-century poet from Scotland, the country in which J. K. Rowling now makes her home.

The poet Harry Potter was not completely obscure. The TLS reviewed both The Singer Passes and an earlier collection, In Thy Heart’s Garden (1919). Harry, said our reviewer, heard “the still small voice amidst the storm of life”, and was “in close and fervent touch with spiritual things”. Even we, who know as little about J. K. Rowling’s books as anyone, are minded to suspect that this sounds not a little like the youthful wizard who came into being in neighbouring Edinburgh. Like his namesake, the original Harry Potter has a tendency towards things mystical, even though the manner of expression is different:

O God, in Whom alone we have the gift
Of conscious life; of Whom our very need
For constant upward rise is born, heed
Our cry . . . .

In addition to this kind of thing, of which there is a a fair bit in The Singer Passes, the poet Potter wrote oddities such as “Ode to a Gas Meter”: “Thou scurvy knave, thou register of lies . . .”. He also made borrowings from exotica such as the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which he rendered into broad Scots, substituting for “a loaf of bread, a book of verse, a flask of wine and thou beside me” a more temperate menu: “A bowl o’ brose, a cosy fire-end sate, / O’ buttermilk a reamin’ jug, and fast / Within ma haun’ a weel-thumb’d ‘Rabbie Burns’”. Stop complaining that your kids won’t read anything but Harry Potter. Give them some Harry Potter to read instead.
Makes my day, folks. Pass it on.

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