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. Drysaltersings of the world’s unceasing ability to surprise, and the shock and dislocation of catching your own life unawares.

Reviews of Drysalter

“A major new collection of ‘super-sonnets’ demonstrates the poet’s amazing talent for putting intimacy on paper”

Read the full review

Kate Kellaway, The Observer

Awards for Drysalter

Winner of the 2013 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection
Winner of the 2013 Costa Poetry Award
Shortlisted for the 2013 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize
Shortlisted for the 2015 Portico Prize

Extract from Drysalter


The birds are taking over. Not in rows on high wires,
chittering on rooves at passers-by, fixing a lone child
with their red-ringed, sink-hole eyes, not by massing

on our window-sills at dawn and tap-tap-tapping
with the urgency, hunger, blunt-sense of the wild,
not with a skirl and swoop like smoke cut loose from fire,

but with a single egg inside each one of us,
lodged in the fold between lungs, not felt until the break,
la petite mort when shell cracks and a song begins,

an airless, blood-borne trill, a pulse, a stretch of wing,
which may be dun wren, bird of paradise, dull rook,
and none of us can know what kind is ours,

nor even know for sure it’s there, this skitter,
this arrhythmia, this restlessness, this ache that makes
you walk out, mid-meal, steal a car and disappear