Fresh Out of the Sky by George Szirtes
Fresh Out of the Sky is a book of songs, dreams, laments, narratives and comedies 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 George Szirtes' earlier books, such as those about his early Budapest childhood explored in Reel, and about growing to adulthood in England in An English Apocalypse. Here the theme is his arrival in England as a child in 1956.
These are followed by the second part of The Yellow Room, a continuing poem of impossible questions about identity as residual Jewishness, in the form of a dialogue with Szirtes' late father.
After that there is a brief section of bridging poems set in the aftermath of war, upheaval and life in contemporary England that leads to Going Viral, a substantial section of ten-line poems, divided into brief chapters, presenting dreamlike reports from the Covid bunkers we have all been inhabiting and ending on occasions of consolation, delight and joy in the midst of darkness and uncertainty.
The book then moves, by way of five interludes, from one dreamlike experience to another, in the form of nine dream songs set in an unstable social and political landscape.
The last section steps from dream to a bestiary of transformations woven through Guillaume Apollinaire and Graham Sutherland.
‘The latest collection by the T S Eliot Prize-winning poet contains poems relating to country, identity, memory, belonging, war and upheaval, many of which relate to his arrival in England as young child after his family fled the 1956 Hungarian uprising.’ – Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller (October 2021 highlights, on Fresh Out of the Sky)
‘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