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George Szirtes

1948–

George Szirtes is the author of a number of books, including Bad Machine (Sheep Meadow Press, 2013) and The Burning of the Books (Circle Press, 2008). He lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, England.

By This Poet

1

The Wolf Reader

for Marilyn Hacker

There were the books, and wolves were in the books.
They roamed between words. They snarled and loped
through stories with bedraggled wolfish looks

at which the hackles rose and the world stopped
in horror, and she read them because she knew
the pleasures of reading, the page being rapt

with the magic of the fierce, and she could do
the talk of such creatures. So one day
when teacher asked if there were any who

could read, she rose as if the task were play,
to claim the story where she felt at home.
The tale was Riding Hood, the wolf was grey.

The fierceness was the wood where grey wolves roam.
She read it round, she read it through and through
It was as if the wolf were hers to comb,

like those bedraggled creatures in the zoo
that, trapped behind the bars, would snarl and stride
as you'd expect a page or wolf to do.


About this poem:
"'The Wolf Reader' came out of a formal exercise in which people told each other a dream and this dream set me off. I do write a good deal in formal patterns and the poem was written fast as my poems often are—I need momentum—then I fiddled with it for a while without changing anything much except punctuation and an odd word. The outside world, the inner world, and other people's inner worlds constitute a continuum like a river in which any imagination may fish. Rivers are not to be owned. This river brought up a wolf and a book."

George Szirtes