Advent calendar: 1. Black, by David Harsent

David Harsent is quite prolific it would seem – I have Night, his tenth poetry collection here in my hands. It is however, I’m almost certain, the first of his I’ve owned. The PBS Choice for Spring 2011, they say “The book feels of a piece with earlier collections, but once “the mad machine cranks up” it achieves a vision and identity all of its own.” and I can’t decide if that does or doesn’t make me want to investigate his back catalogue.

Of this collection, Harsent says himself: “I found myself […] using rhyme, slant rhyme and […] internal rhyme.” – anyone who knows how I like poetry will know that this instantly appeals to me. I love internal rhyme. The kind of rhymes that chime in some part of your brain but you’re not sure what rhymed with what until you go back and study it harder. It’s quite a dark collection (you’d imagine so with a name like Night) with some fairly nasty bits (try this, the title poem Night – plus, there’s a poem called Necrophilia) but it does of course have some lovely bits as well. Or maybe I’m imagining beauty amongst the sinister and dark. Maybe that says more about me than anything else. For example, today I cried a soppy soft happy cry at Body of Proof, when the medical examiner’s daughter spent a day at work with her mum investigating the death of a (now dismembered) man.

I’m not even halfway through the book as yet, and already there are images sticking with me throughout the day (“Of birds, wingbeats in darkness becoming indelible.” from The Garden Hammock) and two passages in a single piece which inspired me to tweet them as soon as I read them. They are both from Black, in the sequence Abstracts which contains five parts all named after colours:

Think back / to those promises, all of them straight from the heart, / never asked for, never kept.

It’s been a lifetime coming but now you understand, / or think you do, why what you wanted wasn’t what you planned.

There was one poem, Ballad, that I read three times in succession. A very lyrical conversation with Death by the riverside. I wonder if I like it because one of the twelve stanzas reminds me of a (crap) poem I wrote over a decade ago, and one line jars like mad. I love imperfection. This is not (in my opinion) an imperfect bit:

So take a step and take a step
And take a step away
For you and I are set to meet
By here another day

If anyone has any wider experience of David Harsent’s poetry I’d love to hear recommendations or otherwise from you in relation to his other collections.

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One Response to Advent calendar: 1. Black, by David Harsent

  1. Pingback: Poetry Month 2012. 25 & 26: Armour |

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