David Harsent is probably not as gloomy and angst-ridden as some of his poetry, but he comes across in the round as someone a bit abrasive, a bit under-privileged in his background, someone who might be quite rude to you if you didn't like all of his work. I do like the vast majority of it - it is thrilling, hard, unflinching stuff, especially the poems taken from his 1984 collection, Mr Punch.
It's madness trying to convey the depth, the dexterity and beauty of this poetry with just a few lines. The contrast between the poems here from his first collection, A Violent Country and anything written after the Mr Punch collection is stark, although some of the work from After Dark, particularly Leap Off The City Skyline, is impressive. I think he works best in alter ego. Here is an excerpt, the first four stanzas of Punch's Nightmares 4
She sloughed the old skin off. The new skin glistened, transparent: a smell of paraffin.
Between the purple coils and bulbous tucks of entrail he could see his children, backed up
in her womb. She lay on the dampened sheet, gin-clear, a weft of muscle
pursing to make a frill that ran on her belly, like an undersea current.
That he makes us see this cruelly grotesque image with such beautifully simple language, and with such implacability, is a measure of how fine a skill he has and how dispassion for his subject and passion for his craft conjoin so well and so fiendishly to produce astounding images and some of the most disturbing but gratifying poetry I've come across.