The Star: 'A plan to televise a poem packed with obscenities caused outrage last night. ITV chiefs intend to screen a reading of Tony Harrison's verse v. which is full of four-letter words.'
Daily Mail: A torrent of four-letter filth... the most explicitly sexual language yet beamed into the nation's living rooms... the crudest, most offensive word is used 17 times.'
Gerald Howarth, MP: 'It is full of expletives and I can't see that it serves any artistic purpose whatsoever.'
Mary Whitehouse: 'This work of singular nastiness.'
Harold Pinter: 'The criticism against the poem has been offensive, juvenile and, of course, philistine. It should certainly be broadcast.'
Tony Harrison's v. was written during the Miners' Strike of 1984-85 when he visited his parents' grave in a Leeds cemetery and found it vandalised by obscene graffiti. In the book-length poem, he confronts the foul-mouthed skinhead thug responsible, who becomes a foil for his own anger and alienation. The political and media reaction to v. would make a book in itself. This is that book. As well as Tony Harrison's poem and Graham Sykes's photographs, this new edition of v. includes press articles, letters, reviews, a defence of the poem and film by director Richard Eyre, and a transcript of the phone calls logged by Channel Four on the night of the broadcast.
'If I had the slightest influence over educational policy in this country, I'd see that v. was a set text in every school in the country, but of course if we lived in that sort of country, the poem wouldn't have needed to be written' Richard Eyre.
Channel Four's film of v. won the Royal Television Society's Best Original Programme Award. This ebook with audio uses a new recording of Tony Harrison reading v. made by Thistledown Productions and first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 18 February 2013.