AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Peter Riley.
I plan to write about Peter Robinson’s poetry for the Fortnightly later this year, in connection with my interest in what might be called a talking poetry. That is, poetry which does not have obvious lyrical features and is not involved in dense figuration, but rather adopts a conversational tone of address, whether to the reader or to the self, but which might not thereby forsake poetical qualities or be reducible to mere chat.
Peter engages us with moments and passages of his life, quite ordinary ones for the most part, calmly retailed in a language which can carry extensive implications. He does other things too, but I think these six poems particularly demonstrate his qualities as a poet of domesticity, and how much more than that he becomes as the poems pursue their courses. This is particularly evident in the longer poem “Grisaille” with its casual spoken start, “Come to think of it”. But this phrase occurs four more times to introduce sections of the poem and with his almost invisible use of rhyme at the ends of the sections gives a sense of a formal lyrical structure, a chant-like performance. And in at least three of these poems the train of thought through the text seems at first like casual musings, but is in fact verbally determined — the transition hinged on “mark” / “remark” in “Die Neue Sachlichkeit” and the way that both “That Inclement March” and “Bench Marks” after elaborating imagery of fortuitous patterning reach conclusions which are verbally led on double-entendres rather than just being concluding sentiments. This lightening must be where poetry becomes, as he says, “Absurdly useful”.
Portfolio: Six new poems by Peter Robinson.
‘We must not expend all our limited resources
trying to make water flow uphill.’
Stuck in traffic, the Mercedes taxi
still beside a bus stop
with some moments’ poor reception…
Left here, outside a fitting room,
I’m suddenly aware
the women swarming round me…
we were following the plough’s tractor tracks
in slushy ice where a salting of snow
here, as it fell, picked them out in white shadow…
Bench Marks for Roy Fisher
If you give me a piece of your mind
— one looking or formed like
a school desk fissured with inscriptions…
Then their cries, redoubled at dawn,
recall for me a single seagull
drunkenly veering across
flagstones on Addington Road.
[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=jNw8ZbnUl0U width=640 height=390 anchor=http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/peterrobinsonreading75tn.jpg
]Peter Robinson‘s most recent collection of poems is The Returning Sky (Shearsman Books), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2012. In 2013 he published Foreigners, Drunks and Babies: Eleven Stories (Two Rivers Press) and a chapbook of new poems, Like the Living End (Worple Press).