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.
‘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.
'Any new collection from George Szirtes will treat its readers to a unique poetic combination: immense versatility and virtuosity when it comes to form, but also a tireless sympathy that dwells clear-sightedly on shocks, traumas and hard-won renewals from a century of migration and massacre. This volume has typically strong-voiced sequences...But its title sequence truly takes the breath away: a meditation on the love and hatred of knowledge, and why fury against literature did not start or end on Nazis' pyres... Read Szirtes to feel the exquisite, excruciating paper cuts of history' - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent, on The Burning of the Books and other poems.