David Harsent (b. 1942, Devon) is the author of eleven collections of poetry, that have between them accumulated a wide array of prizes, from Legion’s Forward Prize for Best Collection, to Night’s Griffin International Poetry Prize, to Fire Songs’ 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize. He is currently a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton.
Harsent describes Salt, the work for which he has been shortlisted, as ‘a group of short poems that have a common tone and mood’. Robert Frost talks about the ‘sound of sense’ but Harsent excels at something further – a kind of ‘sound of significance’; a subtle, careful music which urges the reader towards a deeper-than-usual meditation. Music, indeed, is another important aspect of Harsent’s practice. He has collaborated with a number of composers, most significantly with Harrison Birtwistle, and they have several widely performed collaborative works to their credit.
Harsent has recently published a book of versions of poems by the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos, and the works in Salt – with their muted, uncertain backgrounds offering up sudden vivid flashes of colour and significance – evoke something of those Ritsos poems.
Forward Prizes History: