Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Wrecking Light

Robin Robertson
The Wrecking Light

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

This collection by British poet Robin Roberston consists both from his own poems and translations. Among those who Robertson translated, there are names such as Baudelaire, Ovid, Neruda. And if translations are often ploted, Robertson’s own poems are plotless (except for those that are based on myths.)
Robertson's eye is the photographer’s eye, how accurately he captures some part of the nature. Nature, everything that surrounds us, according to Roberston, is ominous and sometimes dangerous. But the poet finds those words that even at the most terrible you look at least with curiosity.

I go to check the children, who are done for.
They lie there broken on their beds, limbs thrown out
in the attitudes of death, the shape of soldiers.
The next morning, I look up at my reflection
in the train window: unshaven, with today's paper;
behind me stands a gunman in a hood.

Roberston is often contemplative, but not a participant. And to contemplate, it is necessary to step back, refuse to contact. Because of that the lyrical hero, sometimes present in the poem as "I", sometimes as a spirit standing behind photocamera, just pushing on the button of the camera, that seems a lonely and sympathetic, hiding his secret desire to get into nature, into the nature of things.

I remember the tiny stars
of her hands around her belly
as it grew and grew, and how
after a year, nothing came.
How she said it was still there,
inside her, a stone-belly.
And how I saw her wrists
bangled with scars
and those hands flittering
at her throat,
to the plectrum of bone
she'd hung there.

When the lyric hero finds himself in his own image as he becomes part of a sinister world, the hero does not experience the illusion of his own purity and integrity. He is as grim as the world around: No light shining back at me, just shame.
Robertson’s poems are not loudly; on the contrary - often full of ominous silence: If you're absolutely silent and still, you can hear nothing but the sound of nothing.
You want to remember by heart the poems from this book, to pronounce privately, but not out loud.

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