Collected Poems brings together three decades and more of Michael Schmidt’s work. It is a remarkable achievement, not least for the sustained quality and seriousness of purpose, and – despite an unusual variety of approach and material – for its coherence and genuinely distinctive voice. Rich in texture and colour, Schmidt’s poems are among the most readable, engaged and engaging of our time.
As early as his first publication, Schmidt was praised "the natural enthusiasm and chancy drama of the way he writes, its melancholy precision and imagination." John Fuller, The Listener
"Vibrant, radiant... steeped in modernist tradition (Yeats and Eliot) and questingly new... a passionate discourse that is at once earthy and numinous."
Michael Schmidt was born in 1947 in Mexico City. He is founder and editorial director of Carcanet Press and PN Review, and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Glasgow. In 2006, he received an OBE for services to poetry. His many publications include novels and much criticism, not least a full history of poetry in English, The Harvill Book of Twentieth Century Poetry, and several anthologies. Michael Schmidt’s own Selected Poems (Smith/Doorstop, 1997) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.
CHOOSING A GUEST
Whom shall I invite? The centrepiece
Is five red apples on a walnut dish.
The table takes their sheen. Whom
Shall I invite to what the trees provide?
Before I choose a guest I go outside.
It is evening almost, almost winter here:
Under the apple tree a pungent mud of fruit,
One bough fractured by the wealth it bears.
I have chosen. And will she come?
It is like necromancy to invite
The guest who yesterday, the day before,
Laughing, turned to darkness at my board.
Absence I will invite. I will invite
The morning birds, and I will not ask her.
The birds will not come, and she will not come.
The sheen will pass from fruit into the dark.
It is too late to eat, too late to ask.
I shall say grace but break no bread.
The lamp will not be lit; I shall sit still
As shadow takes the taste instead.
Here is my bed. How the scent of apples clings
To my breathing, and the scent of her.
I am alarmed
How nothing leaves me, though the light is gone.
– Michael Schmidt, Collected Poems (2009)
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