Information about the poet.
In this new collection, the exile’s obsessive quest for the nature of humane truth is the focus of poems of visionary sweep which pan out across a life.
Memory is film in Reel: a film-crew shoot Budapest for Berlin; faces float like light on the sea; names appear and disappear on a search engine. George Szirtes reconstructs childhood from a confusion of memories, photographs and stories in which men and women change places and fathers multiply. There are sequences on love, desire and illusion, poems about political loyalties, and poems that form ghost texts shadowing other writers.
The body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines—sources of energy and delight in their prime—go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on.
But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection.
George Szirtes is one of our most inventive—and constantly reinventing—poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
The title-poem of George Szirtes’ The Burning of the Books and Other Poems is the core of this collection of narrative sequences by a writer who came to Britain as a child refugee after the Hungarian Uprising. Book burning is often associated with the Nazis’ actions in 1933, but the practice has a long history, right down to our own day. In this particular case the burning refers to the library of Kien, the scholar in Elias Canetti’s novel Auto da F. The poems follow and expand from the events of Canetti’s book in a variety of forms not previously used by Szirtes.