Information about the poet.
Charged with strangeness and beauty, Hill of Doors is a haunted and haunting book, where each successive poem seems a shape conjured from the shadows, and where the uncanny is made physically present.
The collection sees the return of some familiar members of the Robertson company, including Strindberg—heading, as usual, towards calamity—and the shape-shifter Dionysus. Four loose retellings of stories of the Greek god form pillars for the book, alongside four short Ovid versions. Threaded through these are a series of pieces about the poet’s childhood on the north-east coast, his fascination with the sea and the islands of Scotland. However, the reader will also discover a distinct new note in Robertson’s austere but ravishing poetry: towards the possibility of contentment—a house, a door, a key—finding, at last, a ‘happiness of the hand and heart’.
Magisterial in its command and range, indelibly moving and memorable in its speech, Hill of Doors is Robin Robertson’s most powerful book to date.
Robin Robertson’s fourth collection is, if anything, an even more intense, moving, bleakly lyrical, and at times shocking book than “Swithering”, winner of the Forward Prize. 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 humour. Alongside fine translations from Neruda and Montale and dynamic (and at times horrific) retellings of stories from Ovid, the poems in “The Wrecking Light” pitch the power and wonder of nature against the frailty and failure of the human. Ghosts sift through these poems—certainties become volatile, the simplest situations thicken with strangeness and threat—all of them haunted by the pressure and presence of the primitive world against our own, and the kind of dream-like intensity of description that has become Robertson’s trademark. This is a book of considerable grandeur and sweep which confirms Robertson as one of the most arresting and powerful poets at work today.
To “swither” means to suffer indecision or doubt, but there is no faltering in these poems; any uncertainty is not in the lines or the sounds or the images, but only in the themes of flux and change and transformation that thread their way through this powerful third collection.
Robin Robertson has written a book of remarkable cohesion and range that calls on his knowledge of folklore and myth to fuse the old ways with the new. From raw, exposed poems about the end of childhood to erotically charged lyrics about the end of desire, from a brilliant retelling of the metamorphosis and death of Actaeon to the final freeing of the waters in “Holding Proteus,” these are close examinations of nature—of the bright epiphanies of passion and loss.
At times sombre, at times exultant, Robertson’s poems are always firmly rooted in the world we see, the life we experience: original, precise, and startlingly clear.