Will Harris was born in London to an English father and a Chinese Indonesian mother. His poems pursue, among other things, the complexities of a mixed inheritance, the ‘opposite currents in his blood’. So this is a perceptive and arresting debut that—in an age of preoccupation with issues of race—scrutinises frankly how we see and are seen. A central focus is the recurrent desire to transcend the self and its history, and the impossibility of doing so.
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From ‘The Ark’: II
John Tradescant the younger, sole heir
to his father’s good parts, resolved to make
a catalogue. He wanted Adam’s peace
before the fall. Instead, before the year
was out he’d buried his small son and hidden
the draft, its shopping list of rarities
grown common. Among so many scarce
and far-flung things, he brooded on what can’t
be kept, or what had led him to suppose
this rainy cosmos ours. The old mistake.
Inheritance is not passed down, but grows
within us, feeds off weakness, blares
importance. See the way it falls unbidden,
the oceans slowly filling, partial, slant.