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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning heartfelt collection,
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This review is from: The Wrecking Light (Paperback)I am a poetry junkie, and this is the real deal. Every poem comes from a place of pain and beauty; capturing both the joy and the pathetic irony of human life. A sense of knowing too much about oneself (or about humanity) suffuses the lines. It is as if Robertson has gone to the edge of something, and stepped over; his poems come from beyond the cliff. The individual human weakness that he explores is somehow not depressing: in a way, Robertson's poems are showing us how much we need each other - the strength in THIS.
The poems are beautifully crafted, being both simple and mythically powerful. I have tried to pick a favourite but really can not choose. Whether he is showing us ducks' feet caught in the ice - bodies torn off by foxes - or a woman's hair on the pillow beside a vase of tulips, Robertson seems to be always on top form in every poem. The imagery is stunning. 'He put all his doubt / to the mouth of her long body, / let her draw the night / out of him like a thorn.'
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robin Robertson - The Wrecking Light,
This review is from: The Wrecking Light (Paperback)Some truly moving, and at times dark, poetry which intrigued and haunted one for a while. Well written and great value for money. Highly recommended
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary and beautiful,
This review is from: The Wrecking Light (Paperback)Why is Robin Robertson not as well-known as Seamus Heaney, or Carol Ann Duffy? His language is powerful, his poems are beautiful and heart-wrenching, his imagery lives on when the words have gone. A truly extraordinary poet.
The Wrecking Light contains a range of styles and lengths, from brief observation to epic narrative: contast "Signs on a White Field" with "Tweed"! But beware, they can beguile and inhabit the reader long after the book is closed. I have read, and re-read "At Roane Head" - heard first on BBC's Poetry Please. It won the 2009 Forward prize for a single poem. But I have only read "Cat, Failing" once because it takes me to a place I don't want to go again. The collection was shortlisted for both the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Costa Poetry Award: it would have been a worthy winner. It would be a worthy winner of any award. I now buy this book for all my friends' birthdays. It is amazing.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense and darkly hypnotic,
This review is from: The Wrecking Light (Paperback)Not for the faint-hearted, this mythical and sometimes gory collection by Scottish poet Robin Robertson is haunting poetry of the clinging and unsettling type. It will come back to you in the depths of night with its images burning and as its title suggests, not even the light of day will offer succour.
There's nothing romantic about Robertson's natural world, it is a place of frozen lakes, giant webs and rock. Even in "The Wood of Lost Things" the "path of flowers" becomes "a tangle of nettles/berberis, bramble-wire" and the woods appear to move back in time till they are swallowed by waters and "the dead unbury themselves". Nature is the dispassionate observer while human life, subject to slaughter, sacrifice or disease, is "wasting".
Death stalks this collection darkening paradise and making connections between the past and the present and all living things real and imagined. In the raw "Cat, Failing": "his face, I see,/has turned human." There's the mythological selkie ("At Roane Head") who returns to find his children dead, each relaxed "with a small knife", and to receive his lover's gift of "her husband's head in a wooden box"; and a re-working of Neruda's magnificent "Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market" which having "lived through/the sea's truth" is "navigating now/the waters of death."
The seriousness of this poetry is not completely relentless. "Diving" is a rare moment of solace as we drift
through the columns of gold
and streams of water-weed,
above a world in thrall,
charting by light,
as a plane might glide,
over woods in storm.
There is also the beautiful sonnet "Abandon" and the hopeful "Beginning to Green" (which hints at Larkin's "The Trees"). All 3 of these poems appear in the final section of the collection, named "Unspoken Water" after a Scottish charm with the power to heal. Humour lurks on the edges like some lonely figure in a bar telling stories to anyone who'll listen: "She said her name was Alice ..." (from "Wonderland").
Robertson's writing here is immaculate and I use this word precisely for its connotations of a pristine perfection; it's a collection whose beauty is of a razor's edge rather than softly focussed. Every poem, down to each of the carefully chosen reinventions (of Tranströmer, Baudelaire and less successfully Ovid), works as an individual moment but more importantly slips effortlessly into the larger whole. I would advise the reader to follow each poem in sequence to take full advantage of the recurrence of imagery and theme to produce a most intense and darkly hypnotic reading experience.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Figure in the Background,
This review is from: The Wrecking Light (Paperback)When Robin Robertson's poem `At Roane Head' won the 2010 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem he joined a select band of writers who have won the coveted prize three times. His latest collection, The Wrecking Light, is a substantial gathering of new work, which at first glance bears a marked resemblance to its highly acclaimed predecessor, Swithering. Both collections are characterised by Robertson's austere meditations on isolation, loss and mortality, but they both also give central prominence to his reworkings of Ovid's Metamorphoses and include fine versions of Montale and Neruda. His latest collection even contains a magnificent new poem on Strindberg, a writer whose life as much as his work clearly fascinates him. The Wrecking Light, however, is a bleaker, more unrelentingly desperate work than anything he has produced before.
Robertson has always written movingly about his relationship with his daughters and in `Album', the poem that opens the new collection, we see how paternal love is clouded by guilt:''I am always never there, in these / old photographs: a hand /or shoulder, out of focus; a figure /in the background,/stepping from the frame.'
It is this combination of shame and culpability, perhaps, which intensifies Robertson's awareness of the passage of time, which is highlighted in the quirkily memorable `Middle Watch, Hammersmith' where he imagines an estranged husband who has decamped from the marital home.
The Wrecking Light, is an impressive addition to one of the most powerful bodies of work on the contemporary scene. However, it is not without its flaws. `Leaving St. Kilda', a long list dragged out over four and a half pages, is a surprisingly laborious piece for so fine a writer. `Law of the Island' and `The Great Midwinter Sacrifice, Uppsala', along with `Pentheus and Dionysus', an adaptation from Ovid, are obsessed with ritual violence to a degree which seems gratuitous. Nevertheless, the intensity and seriousness with which Robertson pursues his poetic vocation bear comparison with the magisterial figure of Robert Lowell.
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The Wrecking Light by Robin Robertson (Paperback - 5 Feb 2010)