James Harpur entered a boy’s boarding school in the 1970s and survived to tell the tale. His sequence of poems is a searingly honest and compelling account of his five-year journey, from leaving home for the first time and sleeping in a dormitory in which enemies appear like shadows, to his sadness at his parents’ separation and the death of a father figure from a bomb. For as well as Prog Rock, flared trousers and industrial strikes, this was the era of the Troubles.
An introvert in an extraverted world, Harpur took refuge in Homer and the magical world of Troy, and found that school could be a haven, and even fun: a sex education lesson that backfired; a rare sighting of girls at a dance; a scary ride on his brother’s illegal motorbike; a surreal trip to Covent Garden. Powerful, poignant and humorous, The Examined Life re-creates a ‘vale of soul-making’ that, with its tragedy and comedy, heroes and villains, is like a microcosm of life itself.
James Harpur. Paperback, 210 x 135 mm, 108 pages, April 2021.
James Harpur has had six poetry collections published by Carcanet and Anvil Press and is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of arts. He has won a number of awards for his poetry, including the Vincent Buckley Prize, a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship, and the UK National Poetry Competition. His books include The White Silhouette (2018) an Irish Times Book of the Year; Angels and Harvesters (2012) a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the 2013 Irish Times Award; and The Dark Age (2007), winner of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize.
James regularly broadcasts his work on radio and gives readings and talks about poetry, inspiration and the imagination in schools and universities and at literary festivals. www.jamesharpur.com