Micharel Symmons Robert’s won the 2012 Forward Prize for Best Collection. Jeanette Winterson was Chair of the judges
Michael Symmons Roberts’ sixth – and most ambitious collection to date – takes its name from the ancient trade in powders, chemicals, salts and dyes, paints and cures. These poems offer a similarly potent and sensory multiplicity, unified through the formal constraint of 150 poems of 15 lines.
Like the medieval psalters echoed in its title, this collection contains both the sacred and profane. Here are hymns of praise and lamentation, songs of wonder and despair, journeying effortlessly through physical and metaphysical landscapes, from financial markets and urban sprawl to deserts and dark nights of the soul.
From an encomium to a karaoke booth to a conjuration of an inverse Antarctica, this collection is a compelling, powerful search for meaning, truth and falsehood. But, as ever in Roberts’ work – notably the Whitbread Award-winning Corpus – this search is rooted in the tangible world, leavened by wit, contradiction, tenderness and sensuality.
This is Roberts’ most expansive writing yet: mystical, philosophical, earthy and elegiac. Drysalter sings of the world’s unceasing ability to surprise, and the shock and dislocation of catching your own life unawares.
In January 2013, Drysalter was selected as the Poetry Book Society’s Summer Choice, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.
OBSERVER REVIEW BY KATE KELLAWAY