Stag Beetle

George Szirtes

          Horned demon, stag beetle,
          Half insect, half Swiss-army-knife,
          Your armour seems impregnable.
          Have you come to take my life?

I have lived among insects all my life, he said, handing me a stag beetle. It was a magnificent specimen, a martial object equipped for both defensive and offensive operations. When propped up at 45 degrees it suggested a renaissance nightmare, the perfect rejection of humanism, but now, in my palm it simply sat like a philosophical problem. But there would be a solution, he said. There would be lots of solutions.

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Marzena Pogorzaly

George Szirtes’s twelfth book of poems, Reel (2004) won the T S Eliot Prize for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Fresh Out of the Sky. (2021). His memoir of his mother, The Photographer at Sixteen, was awarded the James Tait Black Prize in 2020. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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Hexham, Northumberland

"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

"Without question, George Szirtes is the most distinguished poet now living in England. Hungary’s loss was England’s gain in 1956 and those elements of Budapest Jewish life that Szirtes has reclaimed imaginatively only serve to enrich and expand England’s poetic consciousness.... Dealing with the most dreadful, dark materials, painfully honest about exile and isolation, Fresh Out of the Sky is, unexpectedly, a joyous and life-affirming work."
— Thomas McCarthy, Dublin Review of Books

"His latest volume of poems is a tour de force of what he has termed ‘the music of what happens’, a supremely well-modulated examination of both his own life and the world at large as seen through the eyes of someone, in Bob Dylan’s words, ‘always on the outside of whatever side there was’."
— Nick Cooke, London Grip

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