Corpus – Michael Symmons Roberts’ Whitbread-Prize winning fourth collection – centres around the body. Mystical, philosophical and erotic, the bodies in these poems move between different worlds – life and after-life, death and resurrection – encountering pathologists’ blades, geneticists’ maps and the wounds of love and war.

Equally at ease with scripture (Jacob wrestling the Angel in ‘Choreography’) and science (‘Mapping the Genome’), these poems are a thrilling blend of modern and ancient wisdom, a profound and lyrical exploration of the mysteries of the body:’ So the martyrs took the lamb./ It tasted rich, steeped in essence/ Of anchovy. They picked it clean/ And found within, a goose, its pink/ Beak in the lamb’s mouth like a tongue.’ Ranging effortlessly between the physical extremes of death – from putrefaction to purification – and life – drought and flood, hunger and satiation – the poems in Corpus speak most movingly of ‘living the half-life between two elements’, of what it is to be unique and luminously alive.

Awards for Corpus

Whitbread Poetry Award – winner
Forward Prize for Best Collection – shortlist
TS Eliot Prize – shortlist
Griffin International Prize – shortlist
Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Extract from Corpus


In the Blue Lobster Café backyard,
the head chef – arms outstretched –
bears what looks like a body,

but conjures six cook’s shirts,
hot-laundered, pegged out,
dripping in a drench of sun.

As they dry, their half-hearted
semaphore becomes
more urgent, untranslatable.

Sex and death are in the air
this May morning: pollen and spent
blossom on an aimless breeze;

crab-backs, prawn skins, clams,
black-violet mussel shells,
all reek in sun-baked bin-sacks.

Contents of Corpus

1. Pelt
2. Ascension Day
3. Food For Risen Bodies – I
4. Corpse
5. Corporeality
6. Attempts On Your Life
7. Post-Mortem
8. Food For Risen Bodies – II
9. The Box
10. Carnivorous – I
11. Food For Risen Bodies – III
12. The Hands
13. Jairus
14. Grounded
15. Carnivorous– II
16. Flesh
17. Your Eyes Tonight
18. Carnivorous – III
19. The Gifts
20. The Razor
21. Mapping The Genome
22. Carnivorous – IV
23. The Drifter And His White Shadow
24. Madame Zero
25. Carnivorous V
26. To John Donne
27. What Divides Us
28. Food For Risen Bodies – IV
29. Genetics
30. Edge Of The World
31. Menagerie
32. Food For Risen Bodies – V
33. Study For The World’s Body
34. Hide
35. Tongue
36. Pathologist
37. Choreography
38. A Wreck
39. The Frequency
40. Food For Risen Bodies – VI
41. Cosmology
42. Last Things
43. Natal
44. Anatomy Of A Perfect Dive