The Stories of My Life


No life follows one convenient thread. Randall Jarrell suggested that ‘the ways we miss our lives are Life’. That’s sometimes true; other times, we catch and briefly hold a clarity, insight or epiphany. Recollected in tranquility, it begins to rise up of its own accord as rhythm and words.

Stories of My Life are of this latter kind. Some conjure spirits from remote places, some are laconic and vulnerable. Some emerge from translations, a newspaper item or the Bible. Here is childhood, desire, courtship, survival, old age; Anglo Saxon, English and other exotic landscapes; battlefields, Alps and ancient cities; a nativity, and the old gods routed; a communion of saints; and resurrections that include poor Yorick and his graveyard full of skeletons. The poet finds bearings through history, biography and fiction, too.

When Michael Schmidt was first published, John Fuller in The Listenernoted ‘the natural enthusiasm and chancy drama of the way he writes, its melancholy precision and imagination’, qualities which mark his latest work. Helen Dunmore in The Observer called him ‘always a stringent poet, never shy of painful truth’. James Sutherland-Smith in Poetry Review said, ‘His work offers pleasure, argument and a complex expression of feeling’.

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Michael Schmidt was born in Mexico in 1947. He is managing director of Carcanet Press and general editor of PN Review. An anthologist, translator, critic and literary historian, Michael’s Selected Poems was a PBS Special Commendation, and his landmark Collected Poems appeared in 2010.