An independent small press poetry review

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Shearsman Books 58 Velwell Road
ISBN 978 1 905700 04 2
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This book takes the form of a sequence of dialogues between Peter Robinson and various interviewers. The interviews were conducted over a period of eleven years and, gathered in this way, they form a vivid overview of the experience of a contemporary poet. As Robinson points out in his preface:

The person who began talking to Ian Sansom in 1994 was at a distinctly different stage of life from the one adding a few sentences to this preface. There will inevitably be changes of emphasis in the responses to questions that follow. There may well be some self-contradiction. Rather than go back over everything artificially constructing a coherent position that none of the versions of me ever held, I thought it best to let the exchanges stand more or less as previously published.
The joy, for me, of reading this book did not necessarily lie in getting to know Peter Robinson, but in being able to see an overview of the poetry scene in the latter part of the twentieth century. The chapter headings are a suitable indication of what lies at the heart of each interview:
	Tell me about your background
	Through frosted glass
	The torque in poetic talk
	Occasion to revise or think again
	The life of a little magazine
	About their future
	A tourist in your other country
	A sense of process
	Left to their own devices
	Aphorisms as poetry or criticisms
	There are avenues, aren't there?
Although centred on the experience and thinking of Robinson, this book serves as a window into the poetry world. Whether you agree with Robinson's views or not, this is still a very worthwhile read. There is always something we can learn from the experience of others. For example, it was a joy to find out that even the professionals don't quite know when a poem is finished. In chapter one:
How do you decide that a poem is finished?

There isn't one single way. I read it out loud over and over again. I agonize about whether this bit or that bit is bearable, or whether the whole thing should be quietly forgotten. I make adjustments and read it again. Then maybe I go back to the earlier reading. I see whether it has any takers when I send it out. If it doesn't, I agonize a little more. I leave it around for some time, forget about it, and then look at it again. This is just part of my managing an obsession as if it were a job. I may even make a few last minute changes on the proofs of a collection as it goes in. I may even revise it before re-publishing...
It does me good to know that even in Robinson's position, there is always room for self-doubt.

reviewer: Susan Woollard.