Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Robin Robertson savors the flavor and texture of words as much as he does their capacity to connect us to the physical world through the carefully wrought image. Listen to his reading of four short poems during the Saturday Night Poetry Sampler at the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival.
Words are corporeal for Robertson. It is as if the oral/aural qualities of syllables themselves—pitch, tone, texture, duration—were the characteristics of physical objects. One can almost feel him weighing words in his hands to find the perfect fit.
He is just as careful in choosing the exact detail. Robinson reminds us that imagery extends beyond the visual. His poems are full of tactile, olfactory, and auditory images that engage all the senses. We can almost taste the “Artichoke” in his poem.
But he does not relish the shape and feel of words for their own sake, and his attention to detail is about more than technique. A poem like “Ghost of a Garden” reminds us that living in the world means living with irreparable loss. Robertson brings the same quality of careful attention to this poem as he does to “Artichoke” and “Wedding the Blacksmith’s Daughter,” two poems that celebrate sensual pleasures.
For Robertson, the act of cherishing just the right syllable or descriptive detail is the act of cherishing the world. This act is even more important in those poems, like “Donegal,” which confront the truth that we are transitory creatures.
“Artichoke” is from Robertson’s first collection, The Painted Field. “Wedding the Locksmith’s Daughter” appears in Slow Air. “Ghost of a Garden” and “Donegal” are from his latest collection Swithering. Robertson has also written a modern translation of Euripides’ Medea. A biography of Robin Robertson can be found in the 2008 Festival Poet Pages.
Return to Poetry Fridays in the weeks ahead, when we will feature video clips of readings by Patrcia Smith, Kevin Young and others.