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Swithering by Robin Robertson (Picador, 2006)

Swithering has just won the Forward Prize for best poetry collection of 2006. Robin Robertson is also appearing at the Poetry International festival at the South Bank Centre.

Here's what the Poetry Book Society's selectors said about this book:

"Those who come to Swithering having read Robin Robertson's earlier books, A Painted Field and Slow Air, will recognise immediately a voice that is uncompromising in the way it deals with the insoluble and irresolvable in human relationships: uncompromising, but none the less subtle. Often, his method is to produce a mood by developing a narrative, absorbing and powerfully observed, which is the poem's slow reveal. He might start by drawing the reader in with a closely-observed moment from the natural world, as in 'What the Horses See at Night', which opens 'When the day-birds have settled/in their creaking trees...' immediately producing a sense of disquiet ('day-birds...'), and proceeds with a similarly affecting and disorientating chain of images ('...the mink's face/is already slippery with yolk...'...tiny islands are drops/of solder/under a drogue moon...') until we are led to the reason for this cleverly-constructed unease: '...our children/breathing slowly in their beds', where that apparently innocuous word 'slowly' takes on a real weight and tension.

There are echoes, everywhere in this book, from a world beyond the world we expect to see. Robertson has a way of evoking mood in just a line or two and the reader is at once caught up, so confident is the language, so sure the descriptive touch.  'Ghost in the Garden' has, as its first line, 'Sometimes I discover I have gone downstairs...' which intrigues and calls, and leads, via a series of images that speak of desuetude and loss, to a final, blunt, heartbreaking conclusion. 

There's often a sense, in these poems, of the old gods of nature nosing into the present: evidence of the world?s dark undertow.  Following his earlier, much-applauded version of Ovid, 'The Flaying of Marsyas', Robertson includes here an equally strong companion-piece 'The Death of Actaeon'. This must, in turn, have prompted 'Actaeon: the Early Years', a truly startling sequence that takes its protagonist from brisk, inescapable attrition to the terrible risks of a freedom sorely earned." 

Robin Robertson

You can find out more about Robert Robinson and read one of his poems on the Scottish Poetry Library website.

Here are some other recently published books by Scottish poets:


Almanacs / HADFIELD, JEN -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

Bad shaman blues / HERBERT, W.N. -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

Brown linoleum green lawns / CAMPBELL, PETER -- London: Hearing Eye, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

The cutting edge : collected poems 1966-2003 / MORRISON, DAVID; Cambridge, Gerry (foreword); Smith, Iain Crichton (introduction) -- Salzburg: Poetry Salzburg at the University of Salzburg, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

The good neighbour / BURNSIDE, JOHN -- London: Jonathan Cape: Jonathan Cape, (Book) - Adult Collect 
 

In my father's house / KINLOCH, DAVID -- Manchester: Carcanet, (Book) - Adult collection 
Abstract: Includes prose poems 

The terrorist at my table / DHARKER, IMTIAZ -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult collection  
 

There are words : collected poems / TURNBULL, GAEL -- Exeter;Edinburgh: Shearsman Books;Mariscat Press, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

This life, this life : new & selected poems 1970-2006 / GREIG, ANDREW -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult collection 
 

Waiting to burn / Cleland, Angela -- Bakewell: Templar Poetry, (Book) - Adult collection  
 
 

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