Poet in Residence

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation. You are welcome to explore our archive of past residencies and read some of the lively and varied discussions you'll find there.

George Szirtes

George Szirtes (b. 1948) came to England in 1956 as a refugee from Hungary. He was brought up in London, going on to study fine art in London and Leeds. He wrote poetry alongside his art and his first collection, The Slant Door,...

Place and soul

George Szirtes - 13 June 2008

Clearly, places are important to poets. There are various anthologies that collect poems of place. There is a difference, of course, between a known local place and an unknown distant one. The danger of the first is that we know it all too well, so well we no longer see or feel it properly. The danger of the second is that we write a kind of tourist verse, noting only difference, not the voices or ghosts it awakens in us. I wonder about this strong interdependence of the known and unknown.

Academies

George Szirtes - 30 May 2008

And that could take us to reading. Should poets read? How much? Is there any particular way to approach the great mass of books already in existence? Where do you start? - My first poet-teacher was Martin Bell, whom I never cease quoting when he said: Poetry should not be taught in schools. It should be a secret and subversive pleasure. And while everyone is busy being subversive now so that the only true subversives are the non-subversive, where does that leave pleasure? It is, I suspect, number 1 on my list.

Jesting Pilate asks what is truth

George Szirtes - 6 May 2008

Water is water. Words are words. But sometimes words can be as much water, or fire, or colour or anything, as is possible for words to be. In poetry we are convinced of truth to the extent that words become things, not objects as such, but our experience of things. Ordinary speech is not enough. We need music, rhythm, association, metaphor, all working at once to present our state to us. We know that instinctively. The least literate people know it: they sing, they mutter, they chant, they pronounce.

Welcome

George Szirtes - 24 April 2008

I will be sixty this year. I remember the struggles and depressions of becoming recognised as a poet throughout my twenties, and the joy of my first book, The Slant Door appearing in 1979. Since then there have been many others and the strange, rather frightening landmark, the collected poems (in this case a New and Collected) is looming at the end of the year.

Glossary term

Conceit

A particularly audacious metaphor or simile used to compare very unlike things.

A tour of the Archive with Chris Pearson

When choosing poems for my tour, I had just one criterion in mind: that each poem must allow me to comment on the...

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