George Szirtes

The Books

The books are restless.

They are in wintery mood,

their voices urgent.


What the books whisper

is what we would not mention

in conversation.


They know more. Guess more.

They have been where we can't go

in the clothes we wear.


They are unsettled

when we would be still. They hear

what we cannot hear.


I open a page

and fall into its cold depths

to sink like a stone.


I talk in clichés

they despise. They don't like us.

They will shake us off.


Too many voices

to register. Too many

lost conversations.


They hover in time

like bad omens. They flap wings,

their frantic pages


cloud the sky over.

They precipitate. They rain

down on us. They soar.


They are the darkness

in our bones that continue

to glow like dead fires.



Poet and translator, George Szirtes was born in Hungary in 1948 and came to England as a refugee in 1956. Having studied Fine Art, he published his first book of poems, The Slant Door, in 1979. It won the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, winning the T S Eliot Prize for Reel in 2004, and was shortlisted for the same prize for his two subsequent books. His New and Collected Poems appeared in 2008/ He is also a prize-winning translator of poetry and fiction from Hungarian. His new book, Mapping the Delta will be published by Bloodaxe in 2016.

More of George Szirtes poetry can be found in Elbow Room Volume 11