George Szirtes arrived in Britain at the age of eight, wearing only one shoe. It was 1956, and as the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest, George and his family fled on foot across the border to Austria, eventually ending up (with many others) as refugees in London. It was such a hasty journey that one of his shoes got lost on the way. From a very early age, he wanted to be a poet – and he has certainly fulfilled that ambition over the last forty years, publishing close to 20 books of prize-winning poetry, and as many translations from Hungarian literature. His moving memoir, The Photographer at 16, won the James Tait Black Prize and was recently broadcast on Radio 4.George talks to Michael from his house in Wymondham, an old butcher’s shop which he and his wife, the artist Clarissa Upchurch, have decorated with dramatic murals. He discusses his memories of leaving Hungary, walking across the border, and about how he then went further back, reconstructing his mother’s incarceration in concentration camps during the War. He explains too the project of writing a poem every day on Twitter, which has enlivened this strange period of lockdown. His playlist includes Tallis, Bartók, Bach, Ravel and Berlioz – as well as an early blues recording from 1931. What they all have in common, he says, is that each opened a door for him into a new world. Produced by Elizabeth BurkeA Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3
Episode 11: George Szirtes, Joannie Stangeland, & Angelique Stevens
NER Out Loud
Simone Edgar Holmes presents NER writers George Szirtes, Joannie Stangeland, and Angelique Stevens reading their new work.Listen in as George Szirtes reads his poem “English Rain,” Joannie Stangeland reads her poem “Parcel,” and Angelique Stevens reads from her memoir “The Only Light We've Got”—all published in recent issues of the New England Review.
Worlds Literature Festival Salon Provocation 8: George Szirtes
The Writing Life
At the ninth annual Worlds Literature Festival Salon event, the international writers present were tasked with examining Ways of Writing: Ways of Reading - how literature and story-telling have been affected by economic and digital changes. George Szirtes takes on the massive task of summing up the essays, conversations and questions delivered throughout the week.
The SPL caught up with George Szirtes at the StAnza poetry festival in March, 2013. In town to read from his new collection Bad Machine (Bloodaxe), George Szirtes spoke to Colin Waters about memory, photography, Twitter and 1960s garage pop. Photo by Caroline Forbes.