Tony Harrison was born in Leeds in 1937. He has published several books of poetry, including The Loiners, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1972; Continuous; v., which was broadcast on Channel 4 in 1987, winning the Royal Television Society Award; A Cold Coming (Gulf War poems written for the Guardian); and The Gaze of the Gorgon (Bloodaxe Books), which won the Whitbread Poetry Prize in 1992. He also contributed a selection of poems to Volume 5 of the Penguin Modern Poets series.
Recognized as Britain's leading theatre and film poet, Tony Harrison has written extensively for the National Theatre, the New York Metropolitan Opera, the BBC and Channel 4. His Dramatic Verse 1973-1985 (Bloodaxe Books) collects verse drama, opera libretti and music theatre, including his National Theatre version of Aeschylus's Oresteia, which won the European Poetry Translation Prize in 1982. The Mysteries (Faber), his acclaimed adaptation of the medieval English Mystery Plays, premièred at the National Theatre in 1985, and his play, The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, which was directed by the poet, was first performed in the ancient stadium of Delphi in 1988, appeared at the National Theatre in 1990 and also toured in Europe. Square Rounds, his most recent original play for the National Theatre, had its première in 1992. Since then he has written and directed three new plays at special performance spaces: Poetry or Bust (Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire; 1993), The Kaisers of Carnuntum (the ancient Roman amphitheatre Carnuntum, Austria; 1995) and The Labours of Herakles (on the hillside site for the new theatre of Delphi, Greece; 1995). These are published as Plays 3 by Faber & Faber (1996), along with his new translation of Victor Hugo's The Prince's Play, which opened at the National Theatre in April 1996.
Among his many television films are Arctic Paradise, The Big H, the four-part BBC series Loving Memory, and his film poems, The Blasphemers' Banquet and The Gaze of the Gorgon. His film Black Daisies for the Bride won the Prix Italia in 1994 and an award from the Mental Health Media. His film/poem A Maybe Day in Kazakhstan was specially commissioned for the anniversary of Democracy in 1994 and The Shadow of Hiroshima for the fiftieth anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima in 1995. His film/poem texts are collected in The Shadow of Hiroshima and Other Film Poems (Faber, 1995). In 1995 he was sent by the Guardian to Bosnia and he wrote poems on the conflict for the front page.