Maintenant #96 - George Szirtes

Conventional wisdom would suggest when a poet leaves their country of birth at a young age, for a new nation, they might bring to bear both traditions upon their writing. Perhaps it is possible, though arguably reductive, that the poet in question would be of neither nation truly - forever an immigrant in one and a stranger to another. What seems assured though, is that this sense of displacement, ambiguity of tradition and identity, this fundamental plurality of language and culture, would seem to find its proper place in the intangibility at the heart of a forceful and considered poetic, where such equivocality is not only welcome but perhaps necessary. At the core of the last century's European poetry tradition lies the notion of trace, of multiplicity, invention, migration and these are the defining characteristics of George Szirtes' oeuvre. His body of work, 40 years in the making and prolific in that time, has carried across forms, mediums, language and tones. It is the poetry of a singular individual extolling individualism, a poet whose responsibilities towards generosity and openness of spirit seem gracefully self-imposed across writing, translating, teaching, editing and anthologising. Moreover, it is the not the work of a man trapped between nations and histories, but one who has been emancipated by a lifetime's fidelity to poetry, never bound by a national dualism, despite the complications of being explicitly Hungarian and implicitly English. Author of over 20 collections, winner of numerous prizes including the TS Eliot, the Cholmondeley, the Gold star of the Hungarian republic and the best translated book award, George Szirtes is an immense poet and undoubtedly the greatest translator of Hungarian into English of the last century, if ever. In an wide ranging and generous interview, we present the 96th edition of Maintenant.

Alongside the interview, 3 new poems by George have been published, including one that forms part of his Camarade project commissioned collaboration with Carol Watts