I was born in Budapest in late 1948 to a Hungarian Jewish father and a Transylvanian Lutheran mother, or so I thought until she died when it turned out she had been Jewish too. Both had had the experiences Jews were subjected to in the war: both survived having discarded their religion so my brother and I were brought up in an entirely secular environment.
In 1956 the family left Hungary, like so many other, by crossing the border illegally into Austria and thence coming to England. I was just eight at the time. I went to school in London, then studied painting, working as an artist as well as poet for a number years. The poetry began in my last two years at school.
I went through the usual process of rejection and disappointment until, at the age of 30 my first book appeared in 1979 and was joint-winner of the Faber Prize. By that time my writing had undergone various changes and in some respects the poet I was then would still be recognised to be the poet I am now. The major change since then has been my return visits to Hungary since 1984 that, more than anything, altered my perspective on history and the beauty and fragility of life. Or rather, while I was aware of these things before, they now assumed specific shape. The poems became longer, more architectural, more culturally aware, I suppose. I also became more overtly aware of language, its oddity, its incapacity, its odd commonality, the way it both linked and divided people. I had begun the long enterprise of translation, something that still engages me on a daily basis. The otherness of words led me to more experimentation with form but always with a deep awareness that this was no theoretical field but a fully human enterprise, engaged with human acts, human experiences, in a society of human beings, not ideas.
The books continued to appear and generally did well, being short-listed for and, occasionally, winning prizes, most notably the T S Eliot Prize for Reel in 2004. Being a productive writer the New and Collected Poems of November 2008 comprises some 450 pages. I have also loved writing for children and working with composers as well as artists, so hop to be able to publish a body of work in those areas.