Fresh Out of the Sky is a book of songs, dreams, laments, narratives and comedies intertwined with passages about major life changes involving country, identity and belonging. It is about perpetually standing at the edge of change, anticipating it, reflecting on it and dreaming about it.
The title sequence of the book returns to the terza rima theme of memory, following sequences in his earlier books, such as those about early Budapest childhood explored in Reel, and about growing to adulthood in England in An English Apocalypse. Here the theme is arrival in England as a child in 1956.
These are wound around poems set in the aftermath of war, upheaval, and life in contemporary England as tracked by a series of dreamlike reports from the Covid bunkers we have been inhabiting. Covid poems run through the collection like a thread holding the book – and indeed the condition of England – together.
The thread embraces the second part of The Yellow Room, a continuing poem of impossible questions about residual Jewishness experienced as a dialogue with the poet’s late father, as well as a bestiary of transformations woven through Guillaume Apollinaire and Graham Sutherland. The book ends on occasions of consolation, delight and joy in the midst of darkness and uncertainty.
‘A brilliantly virtuosic collection of deeply felt poems concerned with the personal impact of the dislocations and betrayals of history. The judges were impressed by the unusual degree of formal pressure exerted by Szirtes on his themes of memory and the impossibility of forgetting.’– Douglas Dunn, on Reel, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize
‘A major contribution to post-war literature…Using a painter-like collage of images to retrieve lost times, lives, cities and betrayed hopes, Szirtes weaves his personal and historical themes into work of profound psychological complexity.’ – Anne Stevenson, Poetry Review
‘… a distinguished poet who transcends boundaries with deep insights into our turbulent times… readers who are lovers of poetry would do well to savour these poems one by one.’ – Moris Farhi, The Jewish Chronicle [on Mapping the Delta]
‘Mapping the Delta touches upon nearly every meaningful human experience, every ‘moment’ in a lifespan, from falling in love to losing a parent… Mapping the Delta wears its emotionalism lightly and its beautiful images modestly. Best of all, it carries its wide experience, sweet hope, garrulous humour and wise joyfulness with life-affirming pride: an important corrective when so much else in the world seems dark and devastated.’ – Bidisha, The Poetry Review
George Szirtes: 'Metro'
George Szirtes reads two extracts from his long poem-sequence 'Metro' from his New & Collected Poems. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes several poems read by George Szirtes from his New & Collected Poems.
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