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Marriage [Paperback]

David Harsent
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

18 Mar 2002
Marriage consists of two sequences of poems. The first is loosely based on the relationship between Pierre Bonnard and his muse and model, who was also his wife. It is a rich pattern for the study of the mysteries of domesticity, the unspoken privacies and intimacies that can exist between two people. For the painter, problems of seeing become, for the husband, problems of knowing. 'Marriage' is an inspired portrait of conjugality, exact, watchful and understated. The second sequence, 'Lepus', extends an interest in the hare as trickster, traceable elsewhere in David Harsent's work, and most recently in 'The Woman and the Hare', a piece commissioned by the Nashe Ensemble, set to music by Harrison Birtwistle, and first performed at the South Bank Centre in 1999.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (18 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571212514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571212514
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 512,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Harsent's commitment to lyricism has caused him to fight hard over difficult territory, since he is not content to isolate shining moments, but is driven to tackle complex subjects. His solution is the dramatic sequence... There is an acute sexual edge and much brilliant imagery.' Peter Porter, Observer

About the Author

David Harsent has published eight collections of poetry. The most recent, Legion, won the Forward Prize for best collection 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. His Selected Poems 1969-2005 was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry prize.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
David Harsent Marriage (Faber, 2002)
In 1998 there was a big Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Tate. You could stroll round the exhibition space feeling that you were in some kind of installation, each wall echoing and developing what appeared elsewhere. You could draw up rules for the ideal Bonnard: bright, challenging colours; a frame within the frame - maybe a window, maybe a mirror; unusual cropping; elements of still-life; a cat; a naked woman. You could buy a really expensive catalogue.
David Harsent's new book of poetry is presented in two unequal halves. In the first half he explores imaginatively the relationship between Pierre Bonnard and Marthe de Méligny, the woman who appears in so many of Bonnard's paintings wearing so few clothes; in the second, he writes a series of poems in which a central character is Lepus the Hare.
If you like Ted Hughes and those pretentious things he did, like Crow, when he'd run out of things to say, then you might like the much shorter second section, Lepus, but more likely you'll just spot the connexion and wonder what exactly it is that Faber is up to.
The Bonnard poems are written from a complex standpoint. We are listening to the voice of the artist, but he is speaking, as often as not, as the character depicted in the paintings. This is one of the games Harsent plays. Poem III begins, We are naked: as it might be, after sex. The artist voices that 'might be', the character voices the 'we are naked'. A frame within a frame.
Sometimes the relationship between poem and painting is exact; elsewhere is it approximate and allusive. Poem III uses motifs and images from L'homme et la femme from 1900, in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
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