The Harm Fields by David Lloyd


David Lloyd’s poetry abides in a lineage of poetic modernism, often in dialogue with poets like César Vallejo, Paul Celan, and Mahmoud Darwish. The poems in The Harm Fields are rich in imagery, their language a fluent mix of registers, from colloquial idioms to technical language and literary citation, and replete with multilingual puns and portmanteaux. These poems carry forward the musical values and the questioning project of the modernist lyric, but their concerns are contemporary, haunted by the ongoing brutality of the times, from Ireland to Palestine, and reaching for a language adequate to mourning, persistence, and utopian possibility. 



For decades now, David Lloyd has been quietly crafting exquisitely chiseled poems that reveal “the grain of the stone”: a lapidary weave of dense internal rhymes; an obdurate and unflinching critical thought; a poetic sensibility that understands why Basil Bunting demanded a chisel to write. The resulting poems—lithographies of the political imagination—weight bodies to particular places and voices to particular bodies. Every tone is telling. 

—Craig Dworkin, author of Radium of the Word: A Poetics of Materiality 


David Lloyd’s impressive new book The Harm Fields opens a door into memories, personal, historic, war-torn, and poetic, each section echoing aspects of the other. Loss stands behind each poem as it impresses itself on the speaker and on the very earthly surrounding—down to the very bone, into rock itself, no separation between. Throughout, the poems are enormously skillful music, language in the mouth, constant alliteration, repetition, off-rhyme, Irish place-names, as if the poet were, in exile, haunted by sounds that then become the poems we read—an echo chamber of implication that moves and insists. Woe and sound are pressed into one’s own being as one reads, almost hears these intelligent, amazingly wrought poems.  

—Martha Ronk, author of The Place One Is 


In David Lloyd’s The Harm Fields we are pulled into a world layered with stone and light, still and often photographic. But underneath the quotidian veneer is a keen understanding of the tangle we have made for ourselves and a reminder of what is at stake for humanity. The poems found here eschew a simple answer and instead seek to explore the nuances of the complex and messy migrations and metamorphic realities of our present moment. These poems are a view into the brokenness of lands and cultures, a warning of the harm we have caused and its reverberations. Lloyd has given a searing signal to all who toil and struggle in the harm fields. 

—Matthew Shenoda, author of Tahrir Suite 


First comes a kind of prelude, a prose consideration of language, identity, belonging, history, that grows up and out from local Irish and European origins. Then comes the cold, clear note of the poetry, and there is no point at which this isn’t poetry. Once launched, it never hesitates to explain itself or to doubt its own adequacy, it just moves. Material images dominate the verse, but their gravity is lightened by a play of relations made possible by an exactitude of sound, image, and echo that “sing / out from the nought rim spelling / with numbers”. There is a deep comfort in a language so inhabited, but it is not an easy one. 

—Trevor Joyce, author of What’s In Store 



David Lloyd is the Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Among his many publications are Arc & Sill: Poems 1979–2009Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics; and Counterpoetics of Modernity: On Irish Poetry and Modernism. A chapbook, terra terra, appeared with Magra Books in May 2022. His play, The Press/Le Placard, is available in a bilingual edition from Presses Universitaires du Midi.