David Harsent: a poem



Christmas Day 1952

A bird down in the snow: black/white, this on a walk

by Pyrtle Spring, spindrift off the new fall

and to my mother: Did God make everything and why

is it Virgin Unspotted and what's wrong with that bird?


Low sun, her stopless tears, the bird as well.

I had thought we might turn back when darkness fell.



David Harsent is a British poet and librettist. He has published twelve volumes of poetry. Legion won the Forward Prize for best collection; Night was triple short-listed in the UK and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Fire Songs won the T.S. Eliot Prize. His most recent collection, Salt, was described by John Burnside, choosing it for his Book of the Year in the New Statesman, as "a masterpiece". A new collection, Loss, appeared in January 2020. He has collaborated with several composers, though most often with Harrison Birtwistle. The New York Times described Birtwistle and Harsent as "a team creating alchemy". Birtwistle/Harsent collaborations have been performed at venues worldwide, including the Royal Opera House, BBC Proms, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Holland Festival, The Concertgebouw, The London South Bank Centre, The Salzburg Festival and Carnegie Hall. Harsent holds several fellowships, including Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Fellow of the Hellenic Authors Society.