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George Szirtes



Born in Budapest in 1948, George Szirtes came to England as a refugee, following the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. 

His family settled in London and he trained as a painter in Leeds and London. 

His return visits to Hungary from 1984 onwards have resulted in a stream of translations into English. 

He is married to the artist Clarissa Upchurch (see link) with whom he lives in Norfolk, where he is Co-ordinator of Creative Writing at the Norwich School of Art and Design. Their two grown up children live and work in London. 

His work is included in many national and international anthologies and in anthologies for children. His poetry has been translated into most European languages.


The Slant Door (Secker & Warburg, 1979)
November and May
(Secker & Warburg, 1981)
Short Wave (Secker & Warburg, 1984)
The Photographer in Winter (Secker & Warburg, 1986)
Metro (OUP, 1988)
Bridge Passages (OUP, 1991)
Blind Field (OUP, 1994)
Selected Poems (OUP, 1996)
The Red All Over Riddle Book (Faber, for children, 1997)
Portrait of my Father in an English Landscape (OUP, 1998)
The Budapest File (Bloodaxe, 2000)
Bloodaxe: the Poetry Quartets.  Cassette, reading with Anne Stevenson, Michael Donaghy and Moniza Alvi (Bloodaxe / British Council, 2000)
An English Apocalypse (Bloodaxe 2001)
REEL (Bloodaxe, November 2004) 


Exercise of Power: The art of Ana Maria Pacheco (Ashgate / Lund Humphries, 2001)


Imre Madách: The Tragedy of Man, verse play (Corvina / Puski 1989)
Sándor Csoóri: Barbarian Prayer.  Selected Poems. (part translator, Corvina 1989)
István Vas: Through the Smoke.   Selected Poems. (editor and part translator, Corvina, 1989)
Dezsõ Kosztolányi: Anna Édes.  Novel. (Quartet, 1991)
Ottó Orbán: The Blood of the Walsungs. Selected Poems. (editor and majority translator, Bloodaxe, 1993)
Zsuzsa Rakovszky: New Life. Selected Poems. (editor and translator, OUP March, 1994)
The Colonnade of Teeth: Twentieth Century Hungarian Poetry (anthology, co-editor and translator, Bloodaxe 1996)
The Lost Rider: Hungarian Poetry 16-20th Century, an anthology, editor and chief translator (Corvina, 1998)
Gyula Krúdy: The Adventures of Sindbad short stories (CEUP, 1999)
Lászlo Krasznahorkai: The Melancholy of Resistance Novel, (Quartet, 1999; New Directions, 2000)
The Night of Akhenaton: Selected Poems of Ágnes Names Nagy (translator, Bloodaxe, November 2003)
An anthology of contemporary Hungarian fiction and poetry for Harvill, to coincide with the Hungarian Year of Culture in the UK from Nov 2003 - Nov 2004.


"George Szirtes has made a unique contribution to the debate about the insularity of contemporary English poetry. He has taken England into Europe... his triumph is in his ability to wring lyrical language from grim subjects without averting his eyes."  Peter Porter, The Observer

"The calm clarity of his poetry is classical in the only worthwhile sense: that it gives lasting utterance to experiences which poetry must engage with if it is to speak in dead earnest to the betrayed world."  John Lucas, The New Statesman

"Serious as Brodsky, culturally wide-ranging as Peter Porter (both acknowledged mentors) Szirtes is one of the best poets we have."  William Scammell, Independent on Sunday

"...combining a dizzyingly metamorphic imagination with formal strictness ... a genuine strangeness his second language can count itself lucky to accommodate."  Sean O'Brien, The Sunday Times

"There is steel in Szirtes's poetry, even at its lightest... These selected poems are a must for those who do not know Szirtes's poetry and a joy for those who do."  Helen Dunmore, The Observer

"...a major contribution to post-war literature... Using a painter-like collage of images to retrieve lost times, lives, cities and betrayed hopes, Szirtes weaves his personal and historical themes into this work of profound psychological the time Szirtes was writing 'The Swimmers' and 'The Buttonmaker's Tale' he was a master."  Anne Stevenson, Poetry Review

"His great achievement, especially in the magnificent long poems, has been to develop a formal technique able to meet the demands of speaking out clearly and giving witness to the very worst this century has heaped on us."  Michael Murphy, Poetry Wales

"... Szirtes gives not only the historical perspective but also the wonders of our own language...[He] is one of the few poets writing in English capable of such a synthesis..." Judith Kitchen, Georgia Review (US)

"... Happy is the man who can draw out from his work a single thread of such brilliance and plenitude. It would be surprising if even a poet of comparable range such as Derek Mahon could distil such a body of work about his troubled homeland..."  Poetry Book Society Recommendation Autumn 2000

" object lesson in how to ground discourse in tangible, identifiable experience..." Ra Page, Literary Review

For recent overviews of his work & career see features in The Times (19.7.2000), The Guardian (27.10.2001), The Irish Times (25.11.2000).

The Collected Poems of Freda Downie (Bloodaxe 1995) 

New Writing 10, Anthology of new writing co-edited with Penelope Lively (Picador 2001) 

See also The Colonnade of Teeth and others translations listed in publications above


George Szirtes wrote the undergraduate course in creative writing and is now coordinator of Creative Writing at Norwich School of Art and Design 

Too many short courses to list, including WICE in Paris... 

Regular tutoring for the Arvon Foundation 

Many schools visits




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