David Herd works in the area of modern literature, with emphasis on poetry and its relation to questions in politics and philosophy. He is a Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent, who has worked with Kent Refugee Help since 2009, and who is a coordinator of Refugee Tales. Alongside Simon Smith, he has collaborated with both Jack Hues and The-Quartet on the project "Rote-Through," and with Sam Bailey, Evan Parker, and Matt Wright on the project "Feedback." He is a co-founder of the Sounds New Poetry Festival. He was a co-editor of Poetry Review.
In his debut book, John Ashbery and American Poetry, David Herd provides clarity of thought and straightforward use of language to elucidate Ashbery's poetry and help the reader appreciate its beauty and complexity. In a quote from Herd's book, Ashbery says of himself, "On the one hand, I am an important poet, read by younger writers, and on the other hand, nobody understands me." Throughout John Ashbery and American Poetry Herd attempts to bring understanding and appreciation to this self-proclaimed paradox. Much of Herd's book is dedicated to understanding Ashbery's diverse influences. Herd explores writers as far-flung across the literary spectrum as Blasé Pascal and Frank Kermode, as well as William James and Boris Pasternak. Herd shows Ashbery to be both an American pragmatist, in the tradition of James, and, at the same time, a committed internationalist, heavily influenced by Pasternak and the Russian avant-garde. Herd plots Ashbery's career as a series of phases, which allow Herd to follow the poet's evolution through his lengthy career.
Herd's book, Making Space for the Human: Non-Persons, Persons, Movement in the Postwar World, explores the history of the juridical non-person with particular reference to the period 1948 to 1958. Concentrating on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Hannah Arendt, Charles Olson, and Frantz Fanon, the book traces and explores the postwar discourse of non-personhood, drawing out models of thought from which a contemporary politics of human movement can learn.
Making Space for the Human builds on David Herd's work as an organizer of the Refugee Tales project, on which he collaborates with Anna Pincus and colleagues at the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group. Through that work, he has helped articulate the call for an end to the United Kingdom's policy of indefinite detention. Refugee Tales makes that call by sharing the stories of people who have experienced indefinite detention. Stories are told as part of large-scale public walks and have been published in two volumes by Comma Press. Using the books as arguments for change, Refugee Tales has engaged directly with policymakers towards a change of law.
Since 2010, David Herd's poetry has addressed the language of the "hostile environment" and in so doing has sought to create spaces in which solidarities can form.