Poet of Honour: George Szirtes

George Szirtes

Version 2
Photograph by Marzena Pogorzaly



We remain rainless.
The late sun draped on washing
like a faded flag.

This is our nation
with its fabled history
of bloom, fight and fade.

We’re fading. Leaders
at press briefings continue
to conjure the great

spirit of something
burning on, conflagrations
of nostalgic power.

Meanwhile the milkman
on his early morning rounds,
the peal of bottles.

Meanwhile the jogger,
the bearded window-cleaner,
the post delivered

by the same woman
with her slow local accent.
Meanwhile the virus

still invisible
still blazing in the sunlight
on the taut clothesline.

And always the flags
under the flag. The white lies
of grey governments

their hands still burning.

The poem is part of an ongoing series about the spread of the coronavirus, written in collaboration with the Singaporean poet, Alvin Pang.


George Szirtes’s first book of poems, The Slant Door (1979 ) was joint-winner of the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, his collection, Reel, winning the T S Eliot Prize in 2004 for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe 2016). His memoir of his mother, The Photographer at Sixteen, was published by MacLehose in February 2019. and won the East Anglian Book Prize for Memoir and Biography and was shortlisted for two other prizes. His many translations from Hungarian include László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango, Sándor Márai’s Conversations in Bolzano and Magda Szabó’s Iza’s Ballad. László Krasznahorkai won the Man Booker International in 2015 for which he shared the translator’s prize with Ottilie Mulzet. Married to artist Clarissa Upchurch, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association.


Photocredit “Dairy Crest 2” by Karen_O’D is licensed under CC BY 2.0



Categories: George Szirtes, Poet-of-Honour, Poetry

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