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Poetry of the second person.

By Peter Riley.

Peter Robinson
The Returning Sky
Shearsman Books 2012 | 108pp | £8.95  $15.00

Like the Living End
Tworple Press 2013 | 36pp | £7.00 $8.48

John Welch
Visiting Exile
Shearsman Books 2009 | 84pp | £ 8.95 $15.00

Its Halting Measure
Shearsman Books 2012 | 90pp | £8.95    $15.00

I’M SURE THAT the fact that both poets under review are the sons of clergymen has no significant bearing on their poems, and I shall try not to mention it again.

ro9bin-sky150Peter Robinson writes normal poems, or appears to. What this mainly means is that we know where we are, and where we are is where Peter Robinson is. The poems follow him through the streets and rooms of Reading, where he now lives, and join him in excursions to Liverpool, where he grew up, and to other places, picking out significant, poignant or typical moments in his day-to-day life, usually in connection with memory. The windows we look out of are his windows, and the eyes by which we see the world are his eyes. The voice too is his, but to whom it is addressed is more difficult to say, often seeming to be an interior amalgam of himself and another, the reader or a specific person alive or dead.

When he begins a poem “So there we are..” (p.30),1 where we are and who “we” are remain questions to be answered in the unfolding of the poem, but we can usually be sure that they will both be identified, if not by name — and indeed they eventually are: “So there we are, a married couple…”. Although this poem is then clearly addressed to his wife, there is a sense of interior monologue in which she serves as a fictional auditor, as indeed there is a sense of solitude in the most familial or social of his poems. He habitually addresses a “you” which is no more than himself, using “you” as the impersonal pronoun — “this is what I did” is rendered as “this is what you do”, thereby claiming himself as typical, an everyman in a recurrent situation shared with all others.

This feels like an unusual usage in contemporary poetry, especially any such as his with its careful attention to perceptual detail, but its purpose remains a normal trope of typicality or empathy. Indeed all this is “normal”, including a running appeal to the reader to validate the author’s percepts, and an equally constant affirmation of a sense of the normal, everyday world as the poem’s field of action, from which he will not be tempted by the faintest trace of surrealism or disjunctive verbalism. Nor will he be tempted from the town into the countryside if he can help it. The tone is quite familiar, as a steady, meticulous address, a sorting through of detail in an unhurried quest for a result. These are, more or less, the normal procedures of many poets, especially those who place themselves in a twentieth-century Anglo-American continuum of explicative self declaration in straight language in an urban scenario such as Robinson likes to praise and blame in his books of criticism. But all this normality leaves features unaccounted for. He appears to write normal poems, but there is more to it; there are abnormalities or aberrations, many of which could easily escape attention in a casual reading.

SO WE ARE led through these streets, rooms, houses, towns, waste lots, and cemeteries (to which, like John Welsh, he seems drawn), as well as occasions such as viewing a family album, meeting or losing old friends, a bird crashing into a window, etc. — subjects English poets have been choosing for about a century. They are chosen as sites of emotive impulsion, sometimes overtly (an old friend’s funeral, revisiting his childhood home etc.), sometimes teasing out the emotive force in the course of the poem. The unity of descriptive and lyrical effect frequently bespeaks a poet of considerable experience —

Today the sky has a period flavour,
distances whipped in by cumulus piles
covering ranges of blue
from a near turquoise through to deep azure. (“Period Sky” p.81)

Such dexterity (the half-rhyme of “flavour” and “azure” across the semantic fulcrum of “blue”) is as likely to speak of bulldozers or a row of portaloos, and only a certain amount of time is anyway spent on contextual details, for Robinson always wants to push the poem on towards a larger scale or more intense utterance. The second stanza of the same poem shows him making such a transition —

Enough to make weak eyes water, the sky
bares a memory of pain
to which your heart goes out…
Sharp on the tongue, and getting keener,
it’s tickled by a kitchen garden’s
fennel, thyme, rosemary, lemon verbena.

The process is thus an elaboration of a subjective and irrational sense he has of the “antiquity” of the sky in its setting (he seems to be among old buildings and gardens) claimed as so intense that “your heart” (i.e. my heart) “goes out”… oddly “tickled” by four old English herbs, perhaps with their emblematic overtones. In the third stanza he almost hears the shrieks caused by sixteenth-century torturers and the sky is one moment “gory”, twinned with its “glory”, and finally empty and indifferent. He cannot claim any necessity for this sequence. It is simply cast at us that “the sky bears a memory of pain”, which a different experience of the same place could legitimately deny and refuse to feel. Although the arbitrary progression is stark here, I think it is always more-or-less the case in his poems and his skill is in persuading us to accept it as a true event of the world by authenticity of expression and poetical interplay.

There are often transitions like this in his poems, by which the intensification or inauguration of an emotive response is suddenly made to open the poem to greater issue. Here’s another, with the same you/I merge and a quite disturbing shift of tense:

Above the bridge, an easyJet
plane descends to the renamed airport,
and in its higher sky’s
releases, burdens being lifted
from you into an uneventful air
were shaming re-stirred memories…(Like the Living End, p.16)

THE POET’S STRATEGIES for gaining authenticity include those aberrations I mentioned which delicately separate his work from the absolutely normal while allowing him to stand in its light in opposition to obscurantism. While it remains “talking poetry” it can rarely for more than a few lines be recognised as identical to the statement-centred, faultlessly normal talking English, smoothly flowing and ever self-explaining, telling us unproblematically what it wants us to hear, which dominates most successful (and all very successful) English poetry now. The tone of this ‘normality’ is readily ingratiating, seeking to befriend the reader and assuring him/her of the poet’s human qualities. Robinson’s tone is not thus, though neither does it offer the pitfalls and jolts that some poets rejoice in — great gaps in the syntax or disconnected words, acts of the poet as enemy. Rather there are slight jerks in a flow of speech. Here are a few such lines, out of context, to which I’ve appended what I think would be a more normal wording (these are not corrections) —

“and farther are the ancestors…” (farther off / away are the ancestors…)

“I come out of my reverie and find a pair of splashing coots feud like rival poets.” (feuding)

“Muntjac deer surviving by carved angels…” (It’s a cemetery scene and he means surviving beside or among carved angels)

“and hall’s revealed rafters…” (rafters revealed or at least the hall)

“Usage and tones of the local fauna can’t help unsettling, their behaviour like to get you hence…” (can’t help unsettling you or being unsettling, their behaviour likely to or as if to…)

The point here is the slightness of these shifts, a few inches to the side of the settled normal mode of talk: little contractions, clipped speech, a rather archaic subjunctive… moments of awkwardness or stiffness which don’t halt the flow but which I nevertheless think are decisive. Some of them may be shifts of meaning or emphasis which are called for, but they still disturb the somnolence of the normal. Their effect is to remove the text from a spoken to a written status. Many more normalising poets do this by stressing the poetical tone in balanced phrases and formal regularity of various kinds but I find Robinson’s little peculiarities more disturbing, especially in their similarity sometimes to careless writing, which I don’t think they ever are. They are joined by other ways of drawing you towards a “written” reading — that is, a reading which does not expect simply to be fed a continuum of language but is prepared to contemplate the textual surface in the awareness of a poetical tension. These include subsumed quotations, rather difficult metaphors, metrical patterning which seems half there, and degrees of rhyme, about which he is rather casual, allowing it to happen from time to time usually at three or four lines’ distance, except for some fully crafted sonnets.

All this careful crafting of the lines into a texture which may be somewhat stiff, or poised, or not as yielding as they at first seemed, draws attention to the process of the poem rather than any conclusion. In fact there is a tendency to the inconclusive and to not quite disclosing situations referred to, especially occluded personal histories. There is a melancholy attached to conclusions which do not solve anything. He makes no claim to insight, repudiating the value in “lived historical situations” of “moral or political correctness” in the poem.2 Rather he offers to delineate accurately on a poetical stage processes of self perception which are indirectly educative of emotion and understanding.

SO THE TRANSITIONS in the poems, which can be quite dramatic, lead not to gems of wisdom but to prolongations or intensifications of the coverage already under way, further consideration of the situation. The poems go in a series of steps marked by these transitions which as well as intensifying the discourse can also stretch the rationality of the language and of the progression to the uttermost. A short poem called “World Enough” (p.42) introduces each of its three stanzas with the deprecating phrase “Such as it is…” beginning with a sunset and old brickwork (such scenes seem to attract him) and a sense of long time passing independently of humanity. Then —

Such as it is, reality
slips past on a warehouse
without the slightest emphasis,
thrives if it fail to become
yet one more news item—
hoarfrost, a whisper, or kiss.

The word “on” is arresting, even if the sense is not difficult. The old brickwork which gives him this sensation of a departing hold on reality is presumably that of the warehouse walls, and the strong sense of ephemerality could indeed therefore be “on” the brickwork, rather than, say, “in” anything. But the construct “reality slips past on a warehouse” remains bizarre with its suggestion of a warehouse on wheels. Actually I think it is perfectly accurate as a delineation of a subjective percept attached to a particular site, a sense of loss, including loss of control, in the passage of time, which is a common motivation to a poem for him. But short of writing an extended paragraph I leave it to other readers to say exactly what is happening in the next three lines. A fragile sense of loss has itself become an actor in the drama, which leaps from metaphors to instances over big conceptual gaps. And continues to in the final stanza, happily resolving on a stroke of ironic wit —

Such as it is, and everywhere,
it comes at us sideways
from bits of grey sky
as when a bureaucrat asked me
where did I plan to be buried?
I wasn’t planning to die.

The option to rhyme third and sixth lines, which is not taken in the first stanza, creeps in unobtrusively (off-accent) in the second, and finishes the third with a resounding clang. There is a sense of final resolution in the patterning here while ironically the conclusion is entirely irresolute as regards the poem’s subject.

A hint dropped by Roy Fisher identifies exactly the force of the steps into disorientation which Robinson’s poems so often take, and which do seem to be the point of the exercise, whether resolved at the end or not — “It is as if he carries a listening device for the moments when the tectonic plates of mental experience slide quietly one beneath another to create paradoxes and complexities that call for poems to be made.”3 The poems exploit a paradox: the sense of meticulously careful writing which places the poet in complete control, reinforced by his access to formalities of metre and rhyme when he needs them, work to undermine his self-security, his sense of standing firmly on the ground. And the language as it gets progressively more highly wrought through the poem participates in the same process, without ever being entirely released into fantasia (though there are some close moments).

robin_end150WHEN A POET has produced several volumes of criticism of modern poetry, as Peter Robinson has,4 it can be helpful to refer the version there of how a poem works, to the poet’s own practice, though it should never be allowed to become definitive. Looking quite cursorily through some of Robinson’s poetry criticism for useful hints, I was struck by his pervasive anxiety about the performance of poetry on the page. With the exception of poets, such as Pound, whose moral failures are glaring, whoever he is writing about and however much he admires, he seems constantly worried as he nervously follows the writing, that the poet will at any moment lapse into some kind of betrayal, and may do it by very slight linguistic acts — a misplaced comma, an unbalanced epithet, an unwise adjective… And the qualities betrayed are those of the selfhood, especially by an imbalance amounting to self-absorption or a lack of “self-awareness”; they are qualities of character rather than belief, in lives lived through the challenges of guilt and reparation, always in danger of a failure to balance the self-referential and the abstract. He uses biographical information freely and chooses poets who thrive on it.

The poets Robinson deals with as a critic ‘are seen primarily as self-declaring subjects, rather than anonymous craftspeople’. It is a policing of the poem by an ideal of personal integrity.

Thus with Hardy’s late work he is much concerned about the quality of the poet’s relationship to his dead wife as subtly enhanced or betrayed in details of diction, rhyme, rhythm, etc. I could not possibly apply to his poetry the kind of strictures he does to Hardy’s; it would seem harsh and assumptive, and anyway I do not know half as much about Robinson’s relationship with his wife as he seems to about Hardy’s with his. There is no chance in Robinson’s discourse of a Hardy poem lifting off the page and flying into an independent existence, in spite of all the lyrical wings Hardy has supplied it with. The poets he deals with are seen primarily as self-declaring subjects, rather than anonymous craftspeople. It is a policing of the poem by an ideal of personal integrity. He is not alone in this but belongs to a succession of empiricist critics (Bernard Williams, Donald Davie et al.) who pick at lines of poetry in similar ways, and like all of them he is repelled by any display of sonorous effects, thus the outright rejection of Dylan Thomas, whose work he sees as an infantile subjection to verbal music, though occasionally he commits resounding sonic fanfares himself — “…and streams flowing forwards to Seaforth”, which sounds half way between Thomas and Housman. And there is in this critical lineage a steady dislike of any purveyor of high or “prophetic” tone, such as Ginsberg. Behind a lot of his strictures, and quite far away in his past, I suspect the presence of the art critic Adrian Stokes, who had a considerable influence on Pound, and on the Cambridge group of Donald Davie, J.H. Prynne, and R.F. Langley in his categorical rejection of the “moulded” (plastic, rhythmic, fluid, etc.) in favour of the “carved” (static, balanced, etc.) — a judgement which I doubt was ever rationally validated either by Stokes or his poetical progeny, but which could be one of the forces lying behind the entire cultivation of disjunction in modernism. Things, ultimately words, are meant to stand before each other distinctly, rather than merge into a discourse. Robinson was in his student days involved with the Cambridge circle of Prynne but is generally looked upon as having deserted that camp, and he has himself questioned the Stokesian pronouncements.5 But in him they seem to have been to some extent interiorised into features of his taste, and possibly in his own poetry enforced his refusal of effusion and generalisation. Even the particular interest taken by some of those poets in economics is echoed in such poems as ‘Ode to Debt’ (p.28) in which a sense of economic justice as an act of balance is, as he himself declares,6 interiorised as a guilt, but this does not prevent him from outright complaint on grounds of insubstantial foundation which remind me of Pound on the gold standard:

Hordes are pouring along the gauntlet
of arcade emporia filled
with promise to be bought with promises —
and this is the rock on which we build.
Banks and building societies
have queues outside their doors.

Wanting to identify some quite elusive features of Robinson’s style which I think distinguish him, I have ignored a lot of other things, including the way he can build up a substantial sequence by pressing ever onwards in pursuit of the inflatable ramifications of his percepts (e.g. ‘Epigrams of Summer’, pp.92-97, and the title sequence of Like the Living End ).

Robinson says in the interview that it is impossible for him to write the kind of lyric poem he needs to without seeming self-absorbed, “because nothing else returns an echo”. Why nothing else returns an echo I don’t know since the world open to modern poetry seems such an immensely rich and variegated platform. But it is an honest declaration, and “seeming” shows the hope and belief he has for and in his own work. He has defied the panics of the polemical avant-garde without succumbing to quiescence. I think his course, if limited in scope, has been a courageous sticking to guns.

CLERGYMAN FATHERS ASIDE, I think Peter Robinson and John Welsh have quite a lot in common, but handle it differently. With Welch again the reader more-or-less inhabits the poet, and within that persona is led through a lot of streets, rooms, hospitals and cemeteries, always with a problem in mind, a melancholy or a lingering dissatisfaction, a need for resolution, suffering from an “enormous pointlessness”. But we are led further, into different places: an art gallery, the inside of a book, a performance of Hamlet aboard a ship off Sierra Leone in 1607, an Asian estate in East London… and sometimes nowhere in particular. So we do not always know where we are, and do not always need to because some poems are securely based in a conceptual focus, and sometimes we do know, except that bits of the poem escape from time to time into some unknown language laboratory, but this happens less and less these days.

There is also a greater range of manner. There are coherently worded poems of thought and situation, and there are poems which take up a double or multiple discourse asking us to be simultaneously in several locations, or several persons, or the same person (the poet) at different times. The paradox of his work, when set beside Robinson’s, is that it is indeed enclosed in a selfhood, taken up with inner anxieties about guilt and the failure of language, but at the same time, as if defying this inwardness, it shoots its attention here there and everywhere and will risk itself into very strong figurations, reaching out from the introspection to senses of distance and resistance. In the comparison Welsh confronts the world more directly, and is eager to attach politics and aesthetics and any other issue he meets, but is drawn back from actual declaration by his modest inwardness, and this tension results in unyielding determinations, moving towards avant-gardery. It is as if this is the price to be paid (by the reader too) for the openness of his engagement.

His two latest books follow a Collected Poems of 20087 and each is a single project with a sense of focus and purpose which is not new to him, but is newly intensified, especially Visiting Exile, which is about the Asian immigrant communities of London. The later book, Its Halting Measure, is more of a collection of poems but in a four-part structure which I’m not able to interpret — possibly a progression towards a more sophisticated consideration of writing and artistic process and purpose (“our words like scented gardens for the blind” as the blurb quotes). On page 29 is a short poem of a more personal kind which reads as an account of his experience of the poetical process, in no straightforward manner but without disruption. I quote it entire.


Space under chest a seed of growth
Mind crosses the paper —

Ink-trace, the flying white —
Sleeps briefly, to wake on the minute.

Cross-legged on the fire cushion,
Active in watchful sitting

Mind so close to itself
So close it lies

On its way to those bones
Buried in a distant range.

The departures throughout, specially obvious in the first two lines, from normally articulated language don’t of course have anything like the effect of Robinson’s stylistic quirks. They don’t disturb anything, but are simply the chosen poetical language of this poem, a quite familiar one, a discourse of substantives and active verbs, without specifying articles and pronouns, the whole cast of the language agreeing with the (imperative?) title — Meditate. The subject of “sleeps” is of course the poet — while Robinson tends to elide “I” and “you”, Welch tends to elide “I” and “he”, indicating a more objective frame of mind, an observational distancing from the self rather than an engagement with it, but here all specifying personal terms are omitted to arrive at the abstract “mind”, the one truly active thing at beginning and end. This little poem is not a manifesto, but an account of an experience. He briefly falls asleep while writing a poem and awakens in a state of active suspension… I defy anyone to attempt to paraphrase the last four lines, except to say that they are very fine and affective lyrical lines, and in them the creative process is consummated as a kind of mental self-embrace in touch with earthly extent, and the whole structure closes as it suddenly vanishes into a distance which abolishes poet, mind and everything. But the poem does demonstrate the characteristic simultaneous engagement with personal and impersonal matter. It is all himself, but its images and effects, including the mind, are as it were pushed away from the self to stand independently of his volition and to act as and be read as objects. Something similar happens in his habitual walking poems (John Welch is said to be an early riser who goes walking in the streets of London every morning) in which anything can occur — sights, thoughts, encounters, trees, shops, slogans, loneliness, beer cans… but they will occur distinctly, not moulded into mutual articulation except in the final accumulation of the whole poem, an accumulation of a distinct nature rather than a theme. Things are to stand by and for themselves — and yes, there is a poem with an epigram from Adrian Stokes, though it is on one of his few completely undisjointed poems.

I DON’T WANT to imply by over-stressing these verbal features that Welch never tackles a subject of concern head-on — in these new books he does it more than he has ever done. He has spent his working life teaching English language to Asians in London and there have been many poems referring to this experience and to his involvement with Asians in general. More characteristically there are pieces which seem to derive from such concerns but treat the matter in a more abstracted way, such as a dialogue-like poem in Its Halting Measure, ‘In Camera’, which seems very much to be addressed to an immigrant or some other person under duress, but without depictions or declarations–

‘Our actions are proportionate’

Being made entirely of such words:
‘Proportionate’ ‘Governance’
Recording ‘for training purposes’
The anxious tremor in your voice

And this vetting procedure
That harbours our darkest desires,
Its wavering attention,
Its careful perplexity—

And another justice secretary’s
‘Non-conviction disposals’,
Each one a licence then
To break into your past…

(I have omitted an italicised counter-text between the quatrains.) Here we are not fully told, it is not spelled out, and identification of the voice as an alien authority is somewhat wavering as it is also suggested as the poet’s voice. But does anything need to be spelled out any further than it is?

welch_ex150Visiting Exile is more purposefully structured and is focussed on Asians in London as immigrants, refugees, victims, and artists. All John Welch’s concerns come to be involved in this focus: his introspective psychological self-concern, his contemplation of artistic structures, his walking, his knowledge of classical Asian history and poetry… and increasingly the characteristic emotions of his poetry are shared with the immigrant, his sense of alienation twinned with the experience of aliens. The poetical craft assures us that this process is not appropriatory; the immigrant’s experience is not absorbed but understood. Two sculptures/installations by the London-based Lebanese artist Souheil Sleiman are referred to again and again, and the substantial texts which start and end the book are extended involvements with them. The text moves towards edges. In the “prologue” he describes, interprets and extrapolates from one of Sleiman’s sculptures, which involves a large heap of sand on the top floor of a former warehouse, and mainly his attention is drawn to its edges where they meet the edge of the floor hovering over the scene below, and from there through to the entire marginality of the immigrant experience — “Marginal existence, flyblown hot light where the street is an edge.” (We are in a derelict cemetery again, presumably the one in the next poem which borders a housing estate in East London) and this form of attention extends to the poetical process itself: “The poem a site of lost meanings. Archaeology of a once-self, it hovers, a work that disappears and then re-appears…”. We approach “the edge of what we almost know”. A poem such as the following comes right out with it—


They’ll come, from there to here.
No it is not a pilgrimage, this
Distance from you to I.
Relentless caravan,
The always being forced
To choose a different sky—
‘I’ wants to know where ‘you’ is from,
It wants your story
But you were so carefully folded
Into your own silences.

Once over here you’re doing the dance of shadows
Hanging about the courts
Waiting for judgement,
Something to be ‘handed down’,
Ambiguous inheritance.

In Welch’s work, there is a ‘direct confrontation’ from ‘you to I’.

This is the poem of someone who not only sympathises, but has known the refugee world for most of his life and lived alongside its results. It is a kind of stripping-down of the refugee situation and a direct confrontation with it, “you to I”. There is of course no “problem” and no “solution” — The Daily Express would not be impressed.8 There are only personal fates, which are acknowledged between visitor and native.

THERE ARE MANY poems in the book as direct as this (which is in fact one item of a sequence) but the other side of his poetical writing is shown by the impressive last item in the book, a seven-page poem entitled “yearn glass” (there is an explanatory note on the title, the name of a defunct mirror factory). So you get that hint which reinforces propositions from earlier in the book (poetry as mirror of lost meaning) and then you get the epigram which is from Sleiman himself: “cut a long story”, which is a phrase he wrote across a fragment of broken mirror. So before we start the poem we seem to have two significant pointers: the broken self-image cast back to the poet as to the immigrant artist whose life “story” has been fractured by displacement. The poem itself allows no limitation to its field. It begins like this (with the lines spaced further apart than normal):

cracked glaze song

I constructed a journey

soothed the inner chaos

slanting afternoon sun

eased the icexxxand it started again

a mouthful of cheap wine

defunct maleness

made out of dust and sunlight

we thought it might be art

rebornxxxin another air

imaginary return such being

the distances we live

There is no authorised sense of the function of the pronouns here and thus of the entire address-structure. The experience of the “economic refugee” (which Sleiman calls himself) might claim priority, and so might that of the poet, but especially when the pronouns are pluralised, the question remains open, and we have a developing series of senses and actualities in all their abstract nakedness. Note that with “a mouthful of cheap wine” we are probably back at the “private view” a description of which opened the book, but images of the second Sleiman sculpture are especially dominant here. This, “All Dressed Up and Nowhere To Go”, is described as “hundreds of fragments of mirror attached to a framework of chicken wire” (It is depicted on the cover of the book). The white Londoner poet and son of a vicar sees his identity cast back to him fragmented and broken in the Asian art-work of mirror-fragments; the damage done to poverty-stricken populations, the disintegration of identity, is reciprocal. But the terms of the text reach beyond this duality and none of us can escape them as the mirror turns from us and returns as a civic threat which divides the person —

here’s a mirror that turns you away
the anti-narcissus machine
it drinks up the ground

disappears into distant dry hills
an insubstantial tower’s
glass wall will remember

and afterwards here in Mirror City
mirror will drink you and drink you
return you the stranger you are to yourself

Peter Riley, the poetry editor of The Fortnightly Review‘s New Series, is a former editor of Collection, and the author of fifteen books of poetry – and some of prose. His latest book is The Glacial Stairway (Carcanet, 2011). He lives in Yorkshire and is the recipient of a 2012 Cholmondeley Award for poetry.

Also in the Fortnightly:

Four poems by John Welch.
Six new poems by Peter Robinson.


  1. “Double Portrait”. All page references are to The Returning Sky unless Like the Living End is specified.
  2. See, in the interview by Nate Dorward in Talk About Poetry (2007), his account of his conflict with a senior representative of the school which sees poetry as dispensation of the poet’s specially gifted insight and moral superiority through linguistic damage.
  3. In the Preface to The Salt Companion to Peter Robinson, Salt Publishing 2007.
  4. In the Circumstances, 1992. Poetry, Poets, Reader: making things happen, 2002. Twentieth Century Poetry: selves and situations, (note the symptomatic sub-title) 2005. Talk About Poetry, 2007. He has also produced two books of aphorisms and recently a book of short stories: Foreigners Drunks and Babies, Two Rivers Press 2013, some of which go over experiences which lie behind the recent poems, and the protagonist is sometimes himself thinly disguised if at all.
  5. In the interview cited above in note 2. Robinson himself edited Stokes’ collected poems in 1981.
  6. In an interview by John Kerrigan on The Returning Sky, which covers many aspects of the book which I have not pursued. Issue 9 of Black Box Manifold.
  7. Reviewed by me along with an autobiographical volume in The Use of English volume 60 no2, 2009.
  8. As of 5 November 2013, the newspaper The Daily Express claims to be conducting a campaign in favour of stopping all immigration to UK from anywhere, for which it claims 98 per cent. popular support. Even the Confederation of British Industry is alarmed.

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