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Massacre of the Innocents

Michael SymmonsRoberts, 30 June 2016

... It was just a handful – five or six – but they spread themselves around us, hid behind trees, began a sotto voce incantation made of nonsense: jingoistic rhymes, unsolvable riddles, misplaced bits of liturgy. But rattling as it did off countless boughs and branches, this whispered cacophony convinced us that an army choked the forest. We pictured cities laid to ruin on the roads from here, battalions of starving, shattered men ...

Custody of the Eyes

Michael SymmonsRoberts, 4 March 2021

... After months of chin-on-chest,shoes scuffed on frozen hillside tracks,day-lit window dulled to lantern glow,papered frame-to-frame with pagesfrom penitential psalms,horizons contracted to the height of a man,how do you choosethe moment to uncrick your neck,to lift your head’s dead weight,you now unguarded, raw again and open to it all,to take the sudden world in whole,and hope your heart will hold?And what if you squander it,look up a second too soon,attention and intention stolen by a dog’s nameshouted in the valley below,a branch brought down by its dry age,your heart’s own stammer ...

Rehearsal for the Day of Joy

Michael SymmonsRoberts, 7 January 2016

... The dancers are stretching, loosening in their dressing rooms, half-dressed in a mess of costume rails, water glasses topped with a dusting of rouge. Although it’s still too soon to dance, look at the rush of guttered rain through grids to join the surge towards an open sea. See how the dry leaves catch in corners, petals of a burnt manifesto caught in a breeze between tenements ...


Michael SymmonsRoberts, 4 July 1996

... There was a scramble for mementos when the road across the border was smashed up, and there was no way in or out of this province of great lakes and mountains. High on a terraced garden, where potatoes and carrots have begun to replace blooms, a broken cat’s-eye lies in its hand-sized block of rusted iron, and blinks at the house lights every night unseen ...

Two Poems

Michael SymmonsRoberts, 18 May 2017

... Soliloquy of the Inner Emigré The authorities asked us to call at noon, to test their new helpline. No one was available to answer our questions. I kept the line open just in case, held the phone to my ear all afternoon, until its ringtone was my metronome. Devolution is a constant process: each week I secede another stage, ratchet back and back from every bloc until I am a law unto myself ...


Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel, 20 April 2006

Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael SymmonsRoberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... Village because nothing ever happens there.’ Perry Scholes, the protagonist and narrator of Michael SymmonsRoberts’s first novel, Patrick’s Alphabet, is obsessed with Weegee. Perry is a modern ambulance chaser who patrols the suburban ‘edgelands’ of the M4 corridor and the M25 in self-conscious imitation ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip, 20 April 2017

Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael SymmonsRoberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... Horace and Ovid threw down the gauntlet to oblivion: come and get me if you can. Paul Farley and Michael SymmonsRoberts are poets and professors of poetry, and the authors of a previous collaboration, Edgelands, which took as its subject the dejected spaces that buffer suburban developments, industrial ...

Weirdo Possible Genius Child

Daniel Soar: Max Porter, 23 May 2019

by Max Porter.
Faber, 213 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 0 571 34028 6
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... in, but then they would be barely noticeable: they wouldn’t register as a subject. The poets Michael SymmonsRoberts and Paul Farley published a book in 2011 called Edgelands, including chapters titled ‘Cars’, ‘Paths’, ‘Dens’, ‘Containers’, ‘Landfill’, ‘Sewage’, ‘Wire’; but this was a ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... language. The colours were too bright perhaps.7 March. Read and enjoy Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael SymmonsRoberts about the lure of in-between places and the edges of cities and other communities. I feel I was on to this years ago in my play The Old Country, when Hilary, a spy in the Foreign Office, describes ...

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