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Saturday, 18 October 2014

A.G. Williams on Robin Richardson's Poetry

Robin Richardson’s collection Knife throwing through self-hypnosis is a marvel to read.  Packed full of mystery and half detectable narratives, one could spend hours trying to unpack poems such as ‘Thora the pilgrim’ or ‘Mike pooh’s palliative unit’ in an attempt to find the source of the work. But one rarely does, such is the brilliance of this book, Richardson is an adept trickster who very acutely conjures up allusions to wider stories in her work that may not even exist outside the context of footnotes (I’m referring to the so-called “The life and times of Dzovits the volcano dweller”, the attributed source for ‘Thora the Pilgrime’ and ‘Thora at thirteen’ in particular).   

One particular aspect of ‘hypnosis’ I found revealing for this work, is ‘hypnosis’ as therapy ‘to recover suppressed memories’ OED.  And this is exactly the quintessential nature of these poems. Richardson’s ‘found poems’ “The pilot of 146’, ‘overheard in New York’ aren’t as solid as any others in the book, but they exemplify Richardson’s stripped down narration (cutting out the BS as is said in the business).  The liquid nature of the allusions in character backstories such as ‘Mercutio – a family history’ represent Richardson’s intriguing and sprawling approach to memory (it is no coincidence that one possible etymological source for the name of Shakespeare’s character is ‘mercurial’). 

Richardson doesn’t compromise her approach over substance when tackling pop culture either (unlike some writers I’ve reviewed recently); one of the great delights of this book is ‘Princess Leia to a lovesick Stormtrooper’ which  doesn’t at all fold under its cry to the heart for those of others a little too ready to ignite our lightsabers.  There are even sexual readings of Peter Pan; Wendy is frequented by the fantasy of the boy wonder ‘A thimble-worth of semen spotting the chin. Again she let him in. Again he left his shadow loitering’.

Richardson knows how to pull a punch without cramming her narrative full of poetry-words. ‘Jerry Springer: colour chart’ is a fine character assassination without sententious or bitter taste ‘When he takes his hand out to flash the middle finger there’s a rainbow’.  ‘The second-coming: I’m afraid of everything’ is terrifying in its flirtations with banality;

 ‘Polanski’s muse, Rosemary’s second son, or something worse like nursery ghosts come back to haunt the mom that let them teethe on Chinese lead’.

The same effect occurs in ‘Portrait in Translucent Ink’;
 
'I’d scratch my calves through the bone if left too long to my own devices’.

One might sound appropriation alarms, but I’m still as unsure to where the offense would lay, Richardson is elusive in both tongue and touch. 

My conclusion is that this is a very refreshing collection of work. Richardson’s poems are full of sprawling allusions though contained in tight lines; never allowing for excessiveness.  I will be returning to all of the poems in this book as I feel I’ve only just scrapped the surface in my first few reads.   Yet this is already one of my favourite books of the year.



Williams is a poet; and a graduate of Durham University.
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