Selected Poems

This selection of the best poems from six remarkable collections reveals that all the strength and sensuality and strangeness is in there from the start. This is a metaphysical poetry for our age: rooted, steeped in the physical, but stretching for lyric completion, philosophical clarity, emotional truth. These poems achieve their seriousness not through hectoring argument but through their lightness of touch, their wit, their tenderness, their music. Roberts has always been a poet who, in the words of Lavinia Greenlaw, ‘inspires profound meditation on the nature of the soul, the body, the stars and the heart, and sparks revelation’. He is also formally and thematically diverse, restlessly exploring a wide range of subjects from Cold-War fear to love lyrics, genetics to elegies, always returning to the crucial, elemental themes – the mapping of experience and the search for meaning.

After Drysalter, his double-prize-winning tour de force, we now have this opportunity to observe the whole arc to date: the consistency of grace and power, curiosity and risk, passion and intelligence that – together – make Michael Symmons Roberts such a thrilling and essential poet.

Reviews of Selected Poems

‘Michael Symmons Roberts’s Selected Poems brings together six collections of his frequently-prize-winning poetry. His oeuvre, at this stage, is remarkable; it is worth repeating that he is unlike any poet currently writing; he is, in his own realm, the nonpareil of British poetry… inimitable, the exemplar that other poets hanker after but can’t parody or echo, not only because he is an unusually gifted technician but because he busts wide open the many no-go areas of human experience, notably the world of the spirit, even the nature of soul, that loaded word most poets stare at, occasionally prod and weigh, but in the end, have no understanding to what meaningful purpose it should be put.’ PBS BULLETIN ON SELECTED POEMS

Poetry Book Society Citation

Awards for Selected Poems

Poetry Book Society Special Commendation

Extract from Selected Poems


 Lit not so she can see to clip our tickets,
nor so we can read the news, but lit
to make of us and it an eel-shaped full

vivarium to show the wild hills what
a world can be. And I would like to say
our thoughts, as passengers, crack

between us like a static cloud, and soul
means a million points of interconnection
and bind, but none of this is true tonight.

Instead, the slow fields, level-crossings,
tight, grey farmsteads hear and miss us,
passing like a single slub of thought

from south to north, slowest synapse ever,
one idea, say, life as journey,  fading
even as it bears us, and silence in its wake.