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David Harsent

A fragmented epic – haunting yet meticulously crafted new sequence of poems from David Harsent, full of danger, absence and sorrow.

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The city never sleeps. Silence would weaken it. When all else fails it talks to itself: seamless thrum of machinery: dark undertone.

It is 00:00 and the full of the night yet to come.

A haunting twenty-part sequence that captures the rich psychological depth of a mind at night, filmic in quality. Each poem should be read in numerical order and consists of an unrhymed sonnet, followed by a 60-line column, sealed with a rhymed quatrain. Between the sections, a fragmentary account of a series of white nights endured by the male protagonist unfolds. They speak of a world outside seen from inside (a window vigil) and tell of a recurring dream that takes place in a white landscape.

We learn of the man’s life, his childhood, a doomed love-affair, and an apprehension of death, but also of the savagely troubled world in which we live (mention of the Holocaust, of Bataclan, of Aleppo, of ISIS, of failed religion, of rough sleepers). Harsent tests and teases the balance between ‘control’ and ‘wildness’, demonstrating his breathtaking formal skill, an arresting use of white space, and conveying psychological turmoil all the more powerfully in this masterful fragmentary epic.


David Harsent has published eleven collections of poetry. Night (2011) was a Poetry Book Society Choice, was shortlisted for the Costa, Forward and T. S. Eliot poetry prizes and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. The most recent, Fire Songs, was published in 2014 and won the T. S. Eliot Prize.

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