Image by Caroline Forbes

Harold Pinter

b. 1930 d. 2008

Sometimes, in poems, I am only dimly conscious of the grounds of my activity, and the work proceeds to its own law and discipline, with me as a go-between, as it were. - Harold Pinter

About Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008) is best known for theatrical work, but was a poet before a playwright, and in early 2005, told the BBC that he was leaving plays to focus on poetry and political speeches. His poetry publications include War, winner of the Wilfred Owen Award, which, although only one of many awards including a CBE, the Shakespeare Prize (Hamburg) and the European Prize for Literature (Vienna) may well hold special weight for Pinter as it is given for both the poetic and political qualities of an author's work. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.

Pinter's plays are well known for their menacing mood, and this is audible in the poems too; 'Later' begins with a view of a moon, which could be romanticised but instead progresses to a vision of blackness through "Dead trees. / Dead linoleum." The "Pinter pause" can be found in 'Before they Fall' where phrases and stanzas are choked back as the subject matter becomes too much. But these are more than companion pieces to the plays; it is through poetry that Pinter chose to deal with his treatment for cancer in his later years ('Cancer Cells'), and it is his love poem 'It Is Here', dedicated to his wife Lady Antonia Fraser, which proudly imagines a long-term love presided over by the ghost of the first breath they shared.

Michael Billington said that Pinter can take ordinary speech and "bring out its poetic quality, its rhythms, its repetitions, its hesitations, its sudden flowerings into ecstatic speech"; that same shaping process occurs even more widely in the poems, finding perhaps its exemplary moment in 'Poem (and all the others)' which makes dark music out of recurrences, echoes, and variations. But this is not his only mode, as can be seen from the brutal comedy of 'Message' or the awestruck precision of 'The Isles of Aran Seen from the Moher Cliffs'.

Having studied at both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Pinter is one of the few professionally trained voices in the Poetry Archive. Yet he also reads with a writer's awareness of his words, demonstrating that his poems need no histrionics to carry their power.

His recording was made on 16 December 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Disappeared and Other Poems Enitharmon Editions, 2002

The Room, Faber and Faber 1957

The Birthday Party, Eyre Methuen 1960

The Caretaker, Faber and Faber 1960

A Slight Ache and Other Plays, Methuen 1961

The Dumb Waiter, Samuel French 1961

The Collection, Methuen 1963

The Lover, Samuel French 1963

The Homecoming, Methuen 1965

Tea Party and Other Plays, Methuen 1967

Mac, Pendragon Press 1968

Landscape, Methuen 1969

Old Times, Methuen 1971

No Man's Land, Methuen 1975

Plays 1, Methuen 1976

Plays 2 Methuen 1977

Plays 3, Methuen 1978

The Proust Screenplay, Methuen 1978

The Hothouse, Methuen 1980

Family Voices, Faber and Faber 1981

The French Lieutenant's Woman and Other Screenplays,...

One for the Road, Methuen 1984

Mountain Language, Faber and Faber 1988

The Comfort of Strangers and Other Screenplays, Faber...

Party Time, Faber and Faber 1991

Plays 4, Faber and Faber 1991

Ten Early Poems, Greville Press 1992 - out of print

Moonlight, Faber and Faber 1993

The Trial (adapted from the novel by Franz Kafka), Faber...

99 Poems in Translation (co-editor), Faber and Faber 1994


Ashes to Ashes, Faber and Faber 1996

Celebration, Methuen 2000

Collected Screenplays 1, Faber and Faber 2000

Collected Screenplays 2, Faber and Faber 2000

Collected Screenplays 3, Faber and Faber 2000

Collected Poems and Prose, Faber 1991


The Dwarfs, Faber and Faber 1992

War, Faber and Faber 2003


Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998, Faber...


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