Monday, June 23, 2014

Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael Symmons Roberts is a British poet who has six full-length poetry books, all published by Jonathan Cape. His fourth, Corpus (2004) was awarded the Whitbread Prize, and was also short-listed for both the Griffin and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His latest collection, Drysalter (2013) recently received the Forward Prize and the Costa Prize. In 2006, in connection with a BBC television series, he published The Miracles of Jesus (Lion-Hudson). He has also published two novels.

When Symmons Roberts arrived as a student at Oxford, as a confident atheist, he intentionally changed his course to Theology and Philosophy, and selected a Christian college so he could talk believers out of their faith. "As university went on I got deeply into philosophy — and the philosophy completely undermined my atheism, by making me realize that there was no overarching objectivity, no Dawkinsian bedrock of common sense if you strip everything away. I realized that atheism was just as culturally conditioned as being a Catholic."

Novelist Jeanette Winterson has described him as “a religious poet in a secular age. His work is about the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world. And his work is about transcendence.”

Jairus

So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.