About the Poem
About the poet
David Harsent (b. 1942) won the 2005 Forward Prize for Legion, which was also shortlisted for...
Legion is my most recent collection of poems - it was published this year, 2005. It's divided into three sections, and the title sequence consists of voices from a fictitious war zone.
These poems ambushed me; I'm not a public poet and never have been, in fact I tend to mistrust issue-driven poetry. It often seems opportunist, not least when it has a whiff of agit-prop about it. However, the sequence was written around the time of the invasion of Iraq and images of war and suffering were everywhere. I neither willed these poems nor resisted them, but it's clear that those images pressed in on me. I suspect that my versions of Goran Simic's siege poems contributed to the impulse that caused me to write 'Legion'; I ought to stress, though, that the incidents in the poems are a construct, not drawn from reality, and the sequence was always an act of the imagination. So, this poem from 'Legion' is called 'Crapshoot'.
Then everything closed down, the 'full systems malfunction'
we'd been told to expect; a blip in the light of the world
was more what it was: a trip-switch on creation.
Some took to their beds some played wild
music, as if the thing might be kept off
by the sheer burst of it; some spiked jugs of juice
and called their children in; some yammered; some threw dice,
the bounce of the bones like a chuckle or a cough.
from Legion (Faber and Faber, 2005), copyright © David Harsent 2005, used by permission of the author
David Harsent Reading from his Poems