One talks of films and death.
Another listens to his heart.
Another is editing his own breath.
Another waits for his body to fall apart.
One talks of intimate matters
to innocent ears. One opens his mouth
to pour out a stream of incoherent letters
written in a friendless house.
One talks of starvation and disease
among birches. Another rides
horses in a circle of lush trees
where a terrible demon abides.
One parses a list of documents
while another dreams and yet another strolls
down a quiet street between events
clutching an account-book of lost souls.
One weeps, another does not.
Another’s mind goes blank.
One must conduct an exercise
where the living march in rank.
There are ghosts in town tonight.
Let the mayor compose a speech.
Let him be effusive, his smile bright.
Let him speak to those words cannot reach.
One must run an orderly town.
One must pay bills while another must beg.
Another must put on a dressing gown
before boiling an egg.
This is a film. This is a body. This
the script and commentary.
This is the moment of paralysis.
This is nothing. This is memory.
George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee with his parents and younger brother following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. He grew up in London and trained as a painter in Leeds and London. He is the author of some fifteen books of poetry, roughly the same of translation from Hungarian, and a few miscellaneous other books. His first, The Slant Door (1979) was joint winner of the Faber Memorial Prize. In 2004 he won the T S Eliot Prize for Reel, and was shortlisted for the prize again in 2009 for The Burning of the Books and for Bad Machine (2013). There were a number of other awards between. Bloodaxe published his New and Collected Poems in 2008. His translations from Hungarian have won international prizes, including the Best Translated Book Award in the USA for László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango (2013) and his latest book for children, In the Land of the Giants won the CLPE Prize for best collection of poetry for children, also in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the UK and of the Szécheny Academy of Arts and Letters in Hungary. He is married to painter, Clarissa Upchurch and recently retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia. For a fuller CV see his website at georgeszirtes.blogspot.co.uk
His latest book Mapping the Delta is scheduled for publication on October 20, 2016 (Bloodaxe), and it is Poetry Book Society Choice for the winter.