David Harsent Biography
(1942– ), Times Literary Supplement, Spectator, A Violent Country, After Dark, Dreams of the Dead, Mister Punch
British poet, born in Devonshire. He worked as a bookseller and was a literary critic with the Times Literary Supplement and the Spectator before becoming editor-in-chief and director at André Deutsch in 1979. A Violent Country (1969), his first collection of poetry, established his reputation as a poet of unusual candour and emotional power. Its unflinchingly direct treatments of personal crisis were sustained in After Dark (1973). The exploratory use of poetic sequences in Dreams of the Dead (1977) culminated in Mister Punch (1984), the protagonist of the title providing a quasi-mythological vehicle for successive wittily disquieting treatments of a wide range of philosophical and religious themes. Subsequent volumes include Selected Poems (1989), Storybook Hero (1992), and News from the Front (1993). His rhythmical economy and the assured precision of his imagery allow poems of striking psychological intensity to remain ‘focussed to a hard edge and convincingly lucid in their enigmatic contexts’, as Craig Raine wrote of Dreams of the Dead. Among Harsent's other works is the novel From an Inland Sea (1985).