George Szirtes

(Budapest)

Biography of George Szirtes

George Szirtes (born 29 November 1948) is a Hungarian-born British poet, writing in English, as well as a translator from the Hungarian language into English. He has lived in the United Kingdom for most of his life.

Born in Budapest on 29 November 1948, Szirtes came to England as a refugee in 1956 aged 8. He was brought up in London and studied Fine Art in London and Leeds. Among his teachers at Leeds was the poet Martin Bell.

His poems began appearing in national magazines in 1973 and his first book, The Slant Door, was published in 1979. It won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize the following year.

He has won a variety of prizes for his work, most recently the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize, for his collection Reel and the Bess Hokin Prize for poems in Poetry magazine, 2008. His translations from Hungarian poetry, fiction and drama have also won numerous awards.

Szirtes lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, and teaches at the University of East Anglia. He is married to the artist Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran The Starwheel Press and who has been responsible for most of his book jacket images. Her interest in the city of Budapest has led to over twenty years of exploration of the city, its streets, buildings and courtyards in paintings and drawings.

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Actaeon

O, my America, my Newfoundland
John Donne, 'Elegy 20'


O, my America, discovered by slim chance,
behind, as it seemed, a washing line
I shoved aside without thinking -
does desire have thoughts or define
its object, consuming all in a glance?

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