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PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy: The Hollow Of The Hand
KosovoPhotography Seamus Murphy, courtesy Bloomsbury Circus

Hear PJ Harvey read from her first-ever poetry book

The English musician teams up with photographer Seamus Murphy to capture her fascination with Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. in her debut poetry book

We are certainly no stranger to the lyrical craftsmanship of PJ Harvey, and with eight studio albums under her belt, it was about time the English artist published her very first book of poetry. In collaboration with photographer Seamus Murphy, together they travelled between 2011 and 2014 to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. to capture each in both words and pictures. For Murphy, Kosovo and Afghanistan were familiar to him, travelling there extensively during his career to capture conflict and daily life, whereas Washington D.C. held its own fascination – as the power-centre of U.S. politics, with the White House a bricks-and-mortar home for America’s own murky history.

Titled The Hollow of the Hand, the book combines Harvey’s poetry alongside images taken on their trips together, and selections from over two decades of Murphy's own personal work. Harvey explains in the book's press release, "Gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with. My friend Seamus Murphy and I agreed to grow a project together – I would collect words , he would collect pictures, following our instincts on where we should go." Murphy adds: "Polly is a writer who loves images and I am a photographer who loves words."

While you can officially get your hands on a copy of The Hollow of the Hand – published by Bloomsbury Circus – today, below we preview a series of poems and imagery from each location. Skip to the bottom to hear Harvey herself reading the poem “On the Corner Of 1st and D”.


People pass the hand.

There are sounds of car horns and music.

People pass the hand that begs.


Three boys in hoods fold their arms

and swerve away from the hand,

the hand that begs in the rain.


A woman in blue will not look

at the hand that begs,

stretching out in the rain.


People come and go, looking at their phones.

Nobody takes the hand

stretching out, shining in the rain.


In the hollow of the hand

is a folded square

of paper,


but nobody looks twice at the white paper

that gleams in the hand that begs,

stretching out and shining in the rain.


One old man is saying three words,

reaching out like he wants to gather

good. His white stick taps the ground

forever. Above the rooftops


a solitary dove sings three notes over and over:

spare some change, spare some change

over the roof of the shopping mall,

spare some change


over the roof of the government building,

over the roof of the Supreme Court.

The earth yawns and turns its face a millimetre.


The moon holds up an empty plate

above the corner of 1st and D,

above the gathering of men and women.


a revolving wheel

of metal chairs


hung on chains

squeals in the heat


Four children fly

over red dirt


A cassette tape

of a sad song


loud and harsh

from a truck


The chairs blur

and form a ring


that ends

where it begins