Bureau of the Lost and Found


Family legend has it he packed it

in his rucksack to hammer in tent-pegs

when he went hiking in the Zugspitze.

Almost an international incident  –

Liverpool medic stranded in Germany

at the outbreak of war.


Where his ancestors quarried stone

he worked in bone  –  trading their crude tools

for something neat and silver.

He tapped my childish reflexes  –

mostly in fun  –  always

the same knee-jerk reaction.


Once when my injured leg unnumbed

he placed a football at my foot

and tapped my knee-cap

and when I kicked the ball

he clapped and clapped as if

I’d scored a goal for England.

Michael Henry’s last collection is an illuminating quest for identity. The first two parts of the book chart a ‘genealogical gold rush’ following a surprise discovery of German forebears, a secret that had lain buried during two world wars. Henry pens an endearing portrait of his father, a surgeon, who is the gateway to this new found ancestry. The themes of loss and discovery, identity and knowledge run through the whole collection. Henry unfolds his world with his signature eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour and a vital intimacy that immediately draws the reader in.

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In Bureau of the Lost and Found Michael Henry’s poetry resembles W. G. Sebald’s prose in its rich understanding of the invisible connective tissues of individual lives and national cultures. A lover of the little things and the larger significance alike, he wears his erudition lightly in these wonderfully sensitive, even-humoured poems. His writing is a reminder of the fine humanity poetry should always be capable of expressing.Michael Hulse