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The Wrecking Light

The Wrecking Light

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The Wrecking Light

4/5 (3 valutazioni)
101 pagine
1 ora
Aug 11, 2011


Robin Robertson’s fourth collection is an intense, moving, bleakly lyrical, and at times shocking book. These poems are written with the authority of classical myth, yet sound utterly contemporary. The poet’s gaze—whether on the natural world or the details of his own life— is unflinching and clear, its utter seriousness leavened by a wry, dry, and disarming humor.

Alongside fine translations from Neruda and Montale and dynamic retellings of stories from Ovid, the poems here pitch the power and wonder of nature against the frailty and failure of the human. This is a book of considerable grandeur and sweep that confirms Robertson as one of the most arresting and powerful poets at work today.

Aug 11, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Robin Robertson is from the northeast coast of Scotland. He has published five collections of poetry and received a number of accolades, including the Petrarca-Preis, the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Forward Prize in each category. Apart from his translations of Euripides, he has also edited a collection of essays, Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame, and, in 2006, he published The Deleted World, a selection of free English versions of poems by the Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer.

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Anteprima del libro

The Wrecking Light - Robin Robertson




I am almost never there, in these

old photographs: a hand

or shoulder, out of focus; a figure

in the background,

stepping from the frame.

I see myself, sometimes, in the restless

blur of a child, that flinch

in the eye, or the way

sun leaks its gold into the print;

or there, in that long white gash

across the face of the glass

on the wall behind. That

smear of light

the sign of me, leaving.

Look closely

at these snapshots, all this

Kodacolor going to blue, and you'll

start to notice. When you finally see me,

you'll see me everywhere: floating

over crocuses, sandcastles,

fallen leaves, on those

melting snowmen, their faces

drawn in coal — among all

the wedding guests,

the dinner guests, the birthday-

party guests — this smoke

in the emulsion, the flaw.

A ghost is there; the ghost gets up to go.


The sun's hinge on the burnt horizon

has woken the sealed lake,

leaving a sleeve of sound. No wind,

just curved plates of air

re-shaping under the trap-ice,

straining to give; the groans and rumbles

like someone shifting heavy tables far below.

I snick a stone over the long sprung deck

to get the dobro's glassy note, the crying

slide of a bottleneck, its

tremulous ululation to the other shore.

The rocks are ice-veined; the trees

swagged with snow.

Here and there, a sudden frost

has caught some turbulence in the water

and made it solid: frozen in its distress

to a scar, or a skin-graft.

Everywhere, frost-heave has jacked up boulders

clear of the surface, and the ice-shove

has piled great slabs on the lake-edge

like luggage tumbled from a carousel.

A racket of jackdaws, the serrated call

of a falcon as I walk out onto the lake.

A living lens of ice; you can hear it bending,

breathing, re-adjusting its weight and light

as the hidden tons of water

swell and stretch underneath,

thickening with cold.

A low grumble, a lingering vibrato, creaks

that seem to echo back and forth for hours;

the lake is talking to itself. A loud

twang in the ice. Twitterings

in the railway lines

from a train about to arrive.

A pencilled-in silence,

hollow and provisional.

And then it comes.

The detonating crack, like a dropped plank,

as if the whole lake has snapped in two

and the world will follow.

But all that happens

is a huge release of sound: a boom

that rolls under the ice for miles,

some fluked leviathan let loose

from centuries of sleep, trying to push through,

shaking the air like sheet metal,

like a muffled giant drum.

I hear the lake all night as a distant war.

In the morning's brightness

I brush the snow off with a glove,

smooth down a porthole in the crust

and find, somehow, the living green beneath.

The green leaf looks back, and sees

a man walking out in this shuddering light

to the sound of air under the ice,

out onto the lake, among sun-cups,

snow penitents: a drowned man, waked

in this weathering ground.


For Alasdair Roberts

I remember the girl

with the hare-lip

down by Clachan Bridge,

cutting up fish

to see how they worked;

by morning's end her nails

were black red, her hands

all sequined silver.

She unpuzzled rabbits

to a rickle of bones;

dipped into a dormouse

for the pip of its heart.

She'd open everything,


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  • (4/5)
    Poetry is extremely personal and requires very selective reading. It also means you must be willing to discard many poems to find the few that you really like. In that sense reading poetry is like visiting a picture gallery. Look at many at a glance, focus on few and prize the exceptional.
  • (5/5)
    This is a fascinating collection of poems and translations. From start to finish it held my attention. In fact, I could not put it down until I reached the Notes at the end. And then I wished it were twice as long. The collection begins with Album, a poem about looking through albums of family photos, and about how the narrator sees himself as a ghost within them. A very strange idea, that, a living ghost. Or are the other figures in the album dead? And so placing him apart from them, as we normally view ghosts – representations of the dead to the living. Only this reverses that perception.Signs on a white field is about how the sun’s heat begins to melt ice on the surface of a lake. The poem starts by describing the surface of the lake as containing some unevennesses, about how….a sudden frosthas caught some turbulence in the waterand made it solid; frozen in its distressto a scar, or a skin-graftAs the sun works its warming work the poet hears the lake ‘talking to itself.’And then it comes.The detonating crack, like a dropped plank,as if the whole lake has snapped in twoand the world will follow.But all that happensis a huge release of sound in a boomthat rolls under the ice for miles.By Clachan Bridge is a weird poem about a girl who has a cleft lip or palate. She used to cut fish up by the bridge to see how they worked inside. by morning’s end, her nailswere black red, her handsall sequined silver.She dissected all sorts of animals. You wonder whether she is addicted to the cutting up or exploring the variations in anatomy. Later, she claimed that she had sex with the blacksmith’s son. Her belly grew for a year, and she said she had a stone baby.And how I said her wristsbangled with scarsand those hands flitteringat her throat,to the plectrum of boneshe’d hung there.The Plague Year starts with what I can only describe as the annual cycle of the birth and rebirth of plants, trees, etc.I am dyingso slowly you’d hardly notice. What is there leftto trust but this green world and its god,always returning to life?And then the poem moves onto explore the nature of inner city pollution.My past stretches from here to there, and back,leaving me somewhere in the middleof Shepherd’s Bush Green with the winos of ’78.A great year; I remember it well. Hints of petrol,urine, plane trees; a finish so long you couldsleep out under it. Same face, different names.Everything is different. Everything is the same.About time explores the idea of feeling oneself aging while watching life events occur (parents’ death; break up of marriage; children suddenly adults). The result isThe skin looseningfrom my legs and armsand this heart goinglike there’s no tomorrow.Fall from Grace, on the other hand, is about shame. He describes his life replacingLove and trust with nothing, nolight shining back at me, just shame….My life a mix of dull disgracesand watery acclaim, my daughters knowI cannot look into their clean faces;what shines back at me is shame.In another poem, the smell of cologne is used to mask the smell of a dead mouse and reminds the person in Going to Ground of thee one used to mask the smell of a friend in hospital with AIDS whose toes and fingers had started to rot and go brown.In A Gift a woman comes to the poet ‘in a dress of true love …. made of flowers’; Her hair was similarly garlanded.And she was holding outA philtre of water lovage,red chamomile and ladies’ sealin a cup, for me to drink.Imagine being in a hotel or B & B. A naked woman leaves your room. In Venery he seesThe whole scutof her bottomdisappearingdown the half-flightcarpet stairto the bathroom.If you want to find out about horrible ways to die, Law of the Island offers one. A man is lashed to a timber and thrown into the sea so that he will float head up.Over his mouth and eyesthey tied two live mackerelwith twine, and pushed himout from the rocks.They waited For a gannetto read that flex of silverfrom a hundred feet up,close its wingsand plummet-dive.And then comes Kalighat which describes the sacrificial beheading of a goat.The bloodcomes out of his neckin little gulps.Robertson returns to the idea that everything, even love, is born and dies in a beautiful poem called Lesson. Ambush is about the immense patience of a fox waiting for the moment when a lake’s surface will freeze over and trap duck’s feet in the ice so they can’t escape.Death strikes again in Grave Goods. The poem starts with ambitions.He wanted to outlive the grim husbandryof battle order, outrunthe breath of the damned… reach a placeof peace and honour,fresh running water,a morning of porcelain and lavendercombed by light, folded and smoothed over.He came instead to a closed silence.Robertson goes on to describe a grave containing the artefacts of hunting and fishing, a red ochre covered woman seated with a child on her lap, a man wearing a crown of antlers and, between the two, ‘a young child laid down/ into the wing of a swan.’In 1075AD Adam of Bremen witnessed The great mid-winter sacrifice, Uppsala. He saw a tall tree ‘thick with gifts’. It was ‘decked simply with the dead’. There were nine animalsand ninethat aren’t animals but hang there just the same,black-faced, bletted, barelyrecognizable as men.And blood soaked the ground under the tree.During dinner is about how Hawthorn should never be brought into the house because it brings death and bad luck with it.It was Christ’s crown and the faeries’ bed, I said to my hostess …..But ‘Ladies Meat’ is another namebecause it smells of sex and it smells of death.…..For years I was only able to smell one and now I can only smell the other!and so she left the table.Widow’s Walk is about isolation and loneliness.Trying to escape myself,but there’s alwayssomeonewanting to sew my shadow back.…I felt like going in,there and then,like a widowtoppling forward at the grave,going in after myself.In Hammersmith Winter he remembers as a boy watching snow fall outside.But you’re not there, now, to lead me backto bed. None of you are. Look at the snow,I said, to whoever might be near. I’m coldWould you hold me. Hold me. Let me go.This is a collection of poems that needs, calls out for, reading and reading again. It’s no good borrowing it. Buy your own.
  • (3/5)
    Robin Robertson’s The Wrecking Light is dark and full of death, sex, the sea, and violent folktales. It’s not a cheery, sunny day kind of book; yet, Robertson’s language and phrasing make these poems beautiful in their melancholy and myth. Loss, displacement, and the often tragic results of man’s interaction with nature run throughout these poems.The beginning of “Abandon” gives us a beautiful natural scene: That moment, when the sun ignites the valley and picks out every bud that’s greened that afternoon; when birds spill from the trees like shaken sheets; that sudden loosening into beautyThe poem goes on to describe his lover drowning. It appears that the speaker could have saved her, but didn’t. He returns to the scene in nature at the end, but it has changed. …that shelving love as the sun was lost to us and the sky bruised, and the stones grew cold as the shells on the beach at Naxos.“At Roane Head” won the Forward prize for Best Single Poem in 2009. The poem, a Scottish folktale about a selkie, encapsulates many of the themes and the style of the book. At Roane Head for John Burnside You’d know her house by the drawn blinds – by the cormorants pitched on the boundary wall, the black crosses of their wings hung out to dry. You’d tell it by the quicken and the pine that hid it from the sea and from the brief light of the sun, and by Aonghas the collie, lying at the door where he died: a rack of bones like a sprung trap. A fork of barnacle geese came over, with that slow squeak of rusty saws. The bitter sea’s complaining pull and roll; a whicker of pigeons, lifting in the wood. She’d had four sons, I knew that well enough, and each one wrong. All born blind, they say, slack-jawed and simple, web-footed, rickety as sticks. Beautiful faces, I’m told, though blank as air. Someone saw them once, outside, hirpling down to the shore, chittering like rats, and said they were fine swimmers, but I would have guessed at that. Her husband left her: said they couldn’t be his, they were more fish than human; he said they were beglamoured, and searched their skin for the showing marks. For years she tended each difficult flame: their tight, flickering bodies. Each night she closed the scales of their eyes to smoor the fire. Until he came again, that last time, thick with drink, saying he’d had enough of this, all this witchery, and made them stand in a row by their beds, twitching. Their hands flapped; herring-eyes rolled in their heads. He went along the line relaxing them one after another with a small knife. They say she goes out every night to lay blankets on the graves to keep them warm. It would put the heart across you, all that grief. There was an otter worrying in the leaves, a heron loping slow over the water when I came at scraich of day, back to her door. She’d hung four stones in a necklace, wore four rings on the hand that led me past the room with four small candles burning which she called ‘the room of rain’. Milky smoke poured up from the grate like a waterfall in reverse and she said my name, and it was the only thing and the last thing that she said. She gave me a skylark’s egg in a bed of frost; gave me twists of my four sons’ hair; gave me her husband’s head in a wooden box. Then she gave me the sealskin, and I put it on.Overall, it is powerful collection. Robertson is precise and masterful. It is certainly one of the most visionary and unique book of poems I have read in quite some time.