Poet with an impressive range talks about his newest batch
This article is from 2010.
Though widely known as one of British publishing’s finest editors, Robin Robertson is also a highly acclaimed poet. Since his 1997 debut collection A Painted Field, he has been the recipient of numerous prizes, both for books and individual poems. Most recently these include the prestigious 2009 Forward Prize for ‘At Roane Head’, a highlight of The Wrecking Light, his first collection in four years. Though Robertson never flinches from uncomfortable subjects in this book, there’s much to be enjoyed in an unusually diverse collection that shows an impressive, confident range. Topics vary from the intensely personal (‘Album’, ‘About Time’) to humorous nuggets (‘The Tweed’, about giving Hugh MacDiarmid a back-rub) to retellings of Ovid (‘Pentheus and Dionysus’).
This ‘latest batch’, as Robertson puts it, were not conceived as a book. ‘You just write these things as individuals,’ he says, ‘and only get a sense of an overarching theme when you compile them.’ This may explain why parts of The Wrecking Light hint at future directions, as evidenced by a forthcoming poem soon to be published in the London Review of Books, which audiences will get a taster of in his upcoming EIBF appearance. This is about the Danish exile of August Strindberg, the 19th century Swedish dramatist who features in The Wrecking Light’s ‘Strindberg in Berlin’: ‘I’ve been interested in him for some time now, and particularly in how he arranged his life to set up material to write about.’ There’s also a hint in ‘By Clachan Bridge’ of the haunting Scottish folk tales he has been working on in recent months. But whichever direction he takes next, readers can be sure that Robin Robertson’s work will retain a strong sense of his own poetic voice. Which, on this evidence, is one of Scotland’s very best.
Robin Robertson, 28 Aug, 10.15am, £10 (£8); Rodge Glass, 30 Aug (with Jen Hadfield and Eleanor Thom), 3.30pm, £10 (£8).