Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Poets and Poems: David Harsent and “Fire Songs”

Last week I discussed I Knew the Bride by Hugo Williams, shortlisted but not the winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize of the Poetry Book Society, founded in 1953 by T.S. Eliot and friends. In the UK, this is the poetry prize to win, carrying with it a 20,000 pound award (about $36,000). I was so taken with Williams’ poems that I wondered just how good the winner was.

So I read it: Fire Songs by David Harsent.

It begins with what is undoubtedly a fire song – “Fire: a song for Mistress Askew” – a rather graphic account of a woman being burned at the stake, with enough Old English lines worked in to add an air of historic reality. (As it turns out, Mistress Anne Askew, a Protestant poet, was arrested several times, found guilty of heresy and, after torture in the Tower of London, burned at the stake in 1546. She was 26.

You read Harsent’s poem, and you suffer alongside Mistress Askew. And it is a long poem.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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