The writer and musician talks about his prize-winning poetry collection, his Caribbean education and why the death of George Floyd has been felt so strongly in the UK
Roger Robinson is a writer who has taught and performed worldwide. His fourth poetry collection, A Portable Paradise, won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje prize last month, an award for a work evoking the spirit of a place: while his previous books have focused on the memory of the Caribbean, here he turns his gaze on England, unflinchingly portraying a place far from paradise as he tackles topics including the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Windrush scandal, and the legacy of slavery. The collection also won the TS Eliot prize and is shortlisted for the Derek Walcott prize. Robinson was born in Hackney in 1967 to Trinidadian parents and moved to Trinidad aged four, before returning to the UK at 19.
In a manifesto you wrote for The Poetry Review you said: “The poet’s job is to translate unspeakable things on to the page…”
Poets don’t get into poetry for money, they do it for vocation – I feel like that anyway. Poets can touch hearts and minds; they can translate trauma into something people can face. Sometimes there’s a cost for the poet to do that as it takes looking at the trauma right in the face and then allowing others to bear the idea of trauma safely. That’s why I write poetry. Poems are empathy machines.
I’m interested in people who think what they’re writing is important and, despite not getting recognition, continueContinue reading...