I started to write poetry late in life, not until I was 56 years old in 1998. In fact I feel almost foolish when I see young writers. Although you write when you can, I would like to have developed my art earlier. Nevertheless a number of lucky breaks have come my way.
I have published something like 120 poems in magazines such as Ambit, Acumen, Other Poetry, Frogmore Papers, Envoi and so on and a series of coincidental aquaintances led me to Arrowhead Press. They published my sequence After the Wound as a pamphlet in 2003. This is based on the Odyssey story of Philoctetes who, after contracting a stinking wound is cast ashore on an island because he has become unacceptable. For many years I was subject to recurring manic-depressive incidents which I believe inhibited my creativity. After a change of medication my 'opening' occurred. The 'wound' of course was this illness and the sequence is a metaphor for it.
In 2004 Arrowhead have published my first full collection Never Quite Prepared For Light. I have read in Newcastle, Southampton and London, most recently in the latter at Tate Modern. I have been given a place on University of East Anglia's New Writing Partnership for a Lab and Forum and hope that this may lead on to other things. I am fairly sure there will be at least one generation between me and other people on this course!
I am a native of the Isle of Wight where I still live with my partner, James, at the time of writing for 17 years. I have a garden between a wood and the sea and am passionately keen on cultivating it in what is almost a Mediterranean setting on a south-facing Cliff.
Cold east minatory compass point
of cowed trees, harsh winds, aeonic night
reeds and rushes at unguarded margins.
We who are natives know that sunlit
pastures do exist for those who journey here but not for us
our land is starved of light vast rivers drain it
until winter forms thromboses in earth's veins
which only the stroke of spring releases into flood
high above high high
cries fall sharp as scree
westbound cranes loop skies free as kites
abandoned by their children they soar
thermals and their cry comes harsh as hail
to some or sings the song of liberty -
either way we cannot follow no ferryman
is equal to that fearful river once spring comes
whilst cranes soar to fish-bellied skies
to other worlds we've heard of but never seen
it seems as if they sail a glass-keeled boat
and though we see them pass above
in these raw days we cannot connect
ours is a world
of settlements and dreadful camps
where dead are stacked like logs till spring
where railway lines give up
and a solitary figure walks the tundra.
It is a dull day
with a weak wind blowing
and you are going somewhere
away from here. The pulse
has fallen, the world is down
you have things to do
which I did long ago
but as you walk away
a winter winding sheet
wraps tight about me.
You leave at dusk
along the unlit road
in that light coat
which so becomes you
till dark absorbs
and I go back
to the house
and close the door.
Later I dream I am at sea
a ring slips from my finger
sinks spiralling to ocean deeps
a mile beyond sunlight
lodges between rock
beyond my reach.
Up at the big house - the one
with panoramic views, security lights
lions on pillars, a party swings.
The new lot no-one knows are holding
court. We the great uninvited must fill
the vital role of gawpers.
There are marquees on the lawns
and what we take to be glamour performs its measure - for fellow guests
and bats and moths. At borders
of the shrubbery is all the flummery
you hear about. Gins, Pimms, Margheritas
will later lead to wines and punches
but no-one seems especially merry.
Despite the warm and cloudless night
there's deep snow in the bathroom
and wafts of dope compete
with mossy rose and eglantine -
the moon itself must surely be by Prada.
This is the life.
Odd then to think how things turn round -
two hundred years ago the lane, now road
the house stands on was used for smuggling
brandy and tobacco. No romantic stuff,
no derring-do but fact of life to fill
the children's mouths with bread. All tied up
with contracts, treaties with the gentry.
Then look at old maps, note that land
lay quarter mile to seaward then
and, as engravings show, great houses stood
which should they haunt their old foundations
would float like Goya's visions. Erosion
is a fact of life round here and in
a geologic blink the grand new house
its swimming pool and rather shiny fountains
could slip to sea sure as revellers
will come to bone and ash.
Poems on this page Copyright © 2003 Robin Ford
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Last modified: March 28th 2005