David Harsent


Lessons from the School of Night

I don’t feel any such responsibility at all, because I can’t help being white and I can’t help being male, any more than I can help being working class.
— David Harsent

Sean Robinson met with David Harsent after our Issue 3 Launch Event at Topping & Co. in December, where he was reading from his new collection of poetry, Salt (Faber, 2017). In this interview David urged young writers to take their own risks, to ‘sacrifice good for unsafe’. He talked about his preference for poetry which uses fictional constructs as opposed to confession. Sean and he also discussed the pressures of making money alongside poetry; the need to read omnivorously; and poetry’s political role – or lack thereof. This episode of the podcast was  produced by Stephen Sacco. 

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Music: Luvva by Heman Sheman. Photo by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash

David Harsent has published eleven collections of poetry. The most recent, Salt, came from Faber & Faber in October 2017. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His work in music theatre has involved collaborations with a number of composers, but most often with Harrison Birtwistle, and has been performed at the Royal Opera House, Carnegie Hall, the Proms and on Channel 4 TV.

Sean Robinson is a poet from London, living in Leith, and studying for an MFA under Don Paterson at the University of St. Andrews. His work has appeared in The Scores and The Moth

Stephen Sacco is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, where he is researching representations of dwarfs in modern and contemporary literature and writing a novel, called Little Aldo, about a right-wing dwarf who gets in a lot of trouble when he tries to find love. He was previously a journalist in New York and the American South, and a playwright. His play, ‘Dance of the Fat Kid,’ received the B. Rod Marriot Award for Playwriting.

Lessons from the School of Night are an irregular series of video or audio interviews and tips from poets and writers who visit St Andrews. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

The School of Night – inspired by the group which included Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh – is Topping & Company Booksellers’ Year-Round Poetry Festival in St Andrews. Curated with the help of Don Paterson and playing host to poets as varied as Paul Muldoon and Lorraine Mariner, Simon Armitage and Annie Freud, it is anchored to a regular fixture on the last Tuesday of the month. The School of Night offers the chance to explore and discuss the work of some of the best poets on the contemporary scene. For more details on these and other events, please visit the Topping & Company website.