Robbie Burton is the new Featured Writer this month. Her debut pamphlet Someone Else’s Street was published by Happenstance Press who must be delighted to have published her first poetry pamphlet. (The first? You’d think she’d have oodles of books to her name. )
I met Robbie at Ledbury Poetry Festival this year and I was thrilled that someone suggested we swap books: perhaps it was Robbie herself? Lucky me. I read them all that night in my campervan because I couldn’t put the book down even though I was boss-eyed with tiredness. And I so hoped she might agree to be a Featured Writer and she did. Lucky me.
Unpredictable isn’t quite the word for her poetry …more like completely astonishing. You would never guess in a month of Sundays where you were going to end up. It’s the little things you need to notice as well as what isn’t there, things left out, things denied, small absences. In this book titles are definitely always part of the poem’s meaning, every word matters, every punctuation mark. Take these poems from The Poetry Society; (Robbie Burton is a serial winner in the quarterly Poetry News Members Poems.) http://poems.poetrysociety.org.uk/poets/robbie-burton/
The poem on that link called ‘Ford’ is the first one in Someone Else’s Street and brings a clear-eyed image of loss and absence. She achieves these devastating poems in so short a space with simple diction and total commitment to craft.
Here’s another favourite of mine:
It’s a cool day in June.
A magpie in the hawthorn
Is collecting backbird’s eggs.
Thug. Mum collected
people, me, and her other
adoptee, the man from
Hebden Bridge who lodged
in her front room for over
forty years. He collected
stamps and one day
bequeathed them to me
along with a yellow Fiat126
and a strong dislike of wrong
the one after different.
Line endings always make you stop and think for an instant. The repeat of collected/collecting make you wonder where this is going. There’s Robbie’s hallmark wise simplicity of language. Title and ending make you want to shout ‘yes’. You will never forget this poem.
And she can be beautifully lyrical too:
‘When fat rain pockles the pond
We stroll to the house where
everyone’s hunkering under the stairs,
and I am taller, filled
with lightning, thunder and silence
resistant to any You should.’
And then take a look at ‘Love Poem’ which Robbie contributed to the Featured Writer’s page. This is a wise and funny and haunting poem. I love the way she tells us so much when she claims that she isn’t, so we know there’s so much love ‘ music would blast through the words, letting out/ bus engine rumble and thud-thud-thud of boats’.
I have nothing but flabbergasted admiration for this poignant and humorous collection full of a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Well, she said she looks out of the window a lot. It’s instructive and makes me green with envy. And you can read more opinions on Sphinx Reviews here