I should never have stayed here
in this cold shieling
once the storm had passed
and the rain had finally eased.
I could make out shapes
inside, the occasional sound:
a muffled crying
which I took for wind in the trees;
stuttering there at the windowsill.
I listened. What looked like
a small red coat
was dripping from its wire hanger.
There was a shift and rustle
coming from the bucket in the corner
by the door;I found, inside,
a crumpled fist of balled-up paper, slowly
On the hearth, just legible
in the warm ash, my name and dates,
and above that, in a shard
of mirror left in the frame,
I caught sight of myself, wearing
something like a black brooch at the neck.
Then I looked more closely
and saw what it was.
from Sailing the Forest: selected poems (London: Picador / New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014)
Robin Robertson, editor and publisher, is one of a gifted generation of Scottish poets now in their fifties.He lives in London, but grew up on the north-east coast of Scotland, and something of its glinting granite and cold seas underlies his poetry.
Mark Doty has referred to Robertson’s ‘rich and briny atmospheres, the burr and bristle of a fine ear, an eye restless for exact and searing detail’ – all of which are evident in ‘The Shelter’ – urging readers to explore the ‘dark and lustrous landscapes’ of his poems.
Robertson’s recurrent persona is that of a displaced man: undone by sexual relationships, and often lost in a haunted landscape. He uses classical and Scottish myths of change and shape-shifting to powerful, sensuous effect, and I recommend ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’ and ‘At Roane Head’ as compelling examples. Robertson's collaborations with musicians, and his translations, have reinforced his attention to the precise shape of a line, to the detonating effect of one unusual word.
He has won a number of prizes for his collections, including the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Find out more about Robin Robertson’s poetry here.
and hear him read at: