Thursday, October 21, 2010

George Szirtes in Gort

The library in Gort is housed in the old Church of Ireland church which has memorial plaques on its wall to members of the Gregory family. This was Lady Gregory's parish church I was told and she insisted that her house guests who were non-Catholic attend service here with her. So W.B. might have worshipped there!

Last night it was another European poet, George Szirtes, who occupied the space and enthralled a reverential, knowledgeable congregation. After some wonderful music and a vigorous reading by Clare poet Patrick Stack, George took to the stage. His reading ranged over his work so far and included some new unpublished work.

His introductions led us into each poem, containing as they did thoughts on the form, the occasion and relevant biographical information. George is a fan of form in poetry and read sonnets, conzone and poems in terza rima - properly rhymed terza rima at that. His use of rhyme is a great confirmation of how effective it can be when used by a master.

I like these forms, George told us, because they can lead me to places I didn't know I was going. He also uses poetic series to a great extent - which is an excellent way of getting around the tyranny of the 40 line lyric.

He read Ross: Yellow Star from his In the Face of History: In Time of War series based on twentieth century photographs, this one by Henryk Ross. What a last line!

He read Newspapers from Flesh: An Early Family History and talked about his Hungarian origins, his move to England and his return to Budapest in 1984 which changed his life.

His most recent volume is The Burning of the Books and he read Madhouse from the title sequence which makes great use of repetition - the first nine lines each begin: The point about the madhouse is . . .

He answered questions after the reading and you got the impression that he was completely at ease and could have gone on chatting about poetry, history, Hungary all evening. Fred Johnson and the Western Writers' Centre deserve great credit for bring him to Gort.

George blogs here and no doubt will have some comments on the Gort reading. George is also on the Poetry Archive here.


Ann said...

Sounds like a wonderful evening spent in beauty and serenity.

Michael Farry said...

Thanks Ann, yes it was!