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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

David Harsent Reading from his Poems

1Old Photographs






7Punch's Day Book - an extract

8Punch's Day Book - an extract

9Mother and Child


11The Sorrow of Sarajevo

12A Common Story


14Marriage - an extract

15Marriage - an extract

16Marriage - an extract

17The hare as witch animal

18The hare as bad omen

19The hare used as a hieroglyph



22Ghost Archaeology

23Harp Strings



26Goodwife's Tale


28Notes from Exile

29At the Riverside

30The Player

Books by David Harsent