© Image by Caroline Forbes

Harold Pinter

(1930 - 2008)

"Sometimes, in poems, I am only dimly conscious of the grounds of my activity, and the work proceeds to its own law and discipline, with me as a go-between, as it were." - Harold Pinter

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • The Room, Faber and Faber 1957
  • The Caretaker, Faber and Faber 1960
  • The Birthday Party, Eyre Methuen 1960
  • The Dumb Waiter, Samuel French 1961
  • A Slight Ache and Other Plays, Methuen 1961
  • The Lover, Samuel French 1963
  • The Collection, Methuen 1963
  • The Homecoming, Methuen 1965
  • Tea Party and Other Plays, Methuen 1967
  • Mac, Pendragon Press 1968
  • Landscape, Methuen 1969
  • Old Times, Methuen 1971
  • No Man's Land, Methuen 1975
  • Plays 1, Methuen 1976
  • Plays 2 Methuen 1977
  • The Proust Screenplay, Methuen 1978
  • Plays 3, Methuen 1978
  • The Hothouse, Methuen 1980
  • Family Voices, Faber and Faber 1981
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman and Other Screenplays, Methuen 1982
  • One for the Road, Methuen 1984
  • Mountain Language, Faber and Faber 1988
  • The Comfort of Strangers and Other Screenplays, Faber and Faber 1990
  • Collected Poems and Prose, Faber 1991
  • Plays 4, Faber and Faber 1991
  • Party Time, Faber and Faber 1991
  • The Dwarfs, Faber and Faber 1992
  • Ten Early Poems, Greville Press 1992 - out of print
  • The Trial (adapted from the novel by Franz Kafka), Faber and Faber 1993
  • Moonlight, Faber and Faber 1993
  • 99 Poems in Translation (co-editor), Faber and Faber 1994
  • Ashes to Ashes, Faber and Faber 1996
  • Collected Screenplays 3, Faber and Faber 2000
  • Collected Screenplays 2, Faber and Faber 2000
  • Collected Screenplays 1, Faber and Faber 2000
  • Celebration, Methuen 2000
  • Disappeared and Other Poems Enitharmon Editions, 2002
  • War, Faber and Faber 2003
  • Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998, Faber and Faber 2005/1998
  • Harold Pinter Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2005
Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008) is best known for theatrical work, but was a poet before a playwright, and in early 2005, told the BBC that he was leaving plays to focus on poetry and political speeches. His poetry publications include War, winner of the Wilfred Owen Award, which, although only one of many awards including a CBE, the Shakespeare Prize (Hamburg) and the European Prize for Literature (Vienna) may well hold special weight for Pinter as it is given for both the poetic and political qualities of an author's work. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.

Pinter's plays are well known for their menacing mood, and this is audible in the poems too; 'Later' begins with a view of a moon, which could be romanticised but instead progresses to a vision of blackness through "Dead trees. / Dead linoleum." The "Pinter pause" can be found in 'Before they Fall' where phrases and stanzas are choked back as the subject matter becomes too much. But these are more than companion pieces to the plays; it is through poetry that Pinter chose to deal with his treatment for cancer in his later years ('Cancer Cells'), and it is his love poem 'It Is Here', dedicated to his wife Lady Antonia Fraser, which proudly imagines a long-term love presided over by the ghost of the first breath they shared.

Michael Billington said that Pinter can take ordinary speech and "bring out its poetic quality, its rhythms, its repetitions, its hesitations, its sudden flowerings into ecstatic speech"; that same shaping process occurs even more widely in the poems, finding perhaps its exemplary moment in 'Poem (and all the others)' which makes dark music out of recurrences, echoes, and variations. But this is not his only mode, as can be seen from the brutal comedy of 'Message' or the awestruck precision of 'The Isles of Aran Seen from the Moher Cliffs'.

Having studied at both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Pinter is one of the few professionally trained voices in the Poetry Archive. Yet he also reads with a writer's awareness of his words, demonstrating that his poems need no histrionics to carry their power.

His recording was made on 16 December 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


2005 Nobel Prize for Literature

2005 Wilfred Owen Award

2002 Companion of Honour for services to Literature

2001 S.T. Dupont Golden Pen Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature

2001 South Bank Show Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

2000 Brianza Poetry Prize, Italy

2000 Critics' Circle Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts

1998 Companion of Literature, RSL

1997 BAFTA Fellowship

1997 Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence

1997 Moliere d'Honneur, Paris in recognition of his life's work

1996 Laurence Olivier Special Award

1995 The David Cohen British Literature Prize

1992 Chilean Order of Merit

1980 Pirandello Prize (Palermo)

1973 European Prize for Literature (Vienna)

1970 Shakespeare Prize (Hamburg)

2007 Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur

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