All the Relevant Gods was really brought alive for me when I heard Houghton at a recent Kent and Sussex Poetry Society meeting. It’s a pamphlet I recently read and very much enjoyed, but hearing from the poet herself was brilliant. She added so much, not just some backstory to a number of poems, but she made the poems richer, deeper and I love how they made a little echo back to the first reading I had done some weeks before. I think it is the strength of good writing when a phrase or stanza unpeels itself weeks later, somewhere deep in your skull without you even remembering it was there in the first place.
If you get a chance to hear Robin read I urge you to. Until then here are a few poems from the pamphlet…. if you enjoy them, take a moment to follow the link to Cinnamon Press and bag yourself a copy for just £4.99.
London Bridge to Waterloo East
Ratcheted backwards along familiar lines
something is dead and we’re the mourners –
a squeeze of tracks tight between windows
thirty bottle panes across, a Pearce Duff’s sign,
shadow lines of a custard tin. Here we are
cheek to cheek with chimneys, eyelevel
with feral pigeons arranged like heraldry
in their smoke-blackened niches. Crane lower –
under a mash of adverts left to peeling, through
iron bars set in yellow brick, liquid escapes
down grilled steps, sensing the river. This fine
bent gristle thing nudges us into the old stories.
Our wheels sharpen on a drawn-out mass
of points and then we’re stationary, our heaving
carriage balanced over Union Street arches,
hearts beating up out of sleeping bags below
where once packers and platers lit their fags,
off to the Rose & Crown, after the factory closed.
Shoot up in the fast lift,
poke the faux grass with toothpick heels.
Late lunch at the Coq d’Argent –
accept a drink, plan your exit.
After two pm the old religion can be smelt –
some urban Plague myth – even here,
halfway to the holding stacks
of City-bound planes.
Look out to where domes are clouds,
black antennas stricken trees, people
blips fading from someone’s radar.
A good place to fail.
Tender is the man-made view.
Look down where a scrawl of red tail-lights
sings stop in the name of love
and windows laugh open.
Two sips of Sauvignon Blanc and all London
is under you, your parapet bends
eye-level with skinny cranes,
arms turning in a show of listening.
Robin is a talented poet and the person behind Telltale Press, a poets’ publishing collective set-up around 2014, which producing stunning pamphlets, or as the press calls them, “calling cards”. These debut pamphlets help their poets showcase their work. Telltale look for poets with a first pamphlet ready to publish and who are shortlisted or commended in pamphlet competitions. A track record in good magazines is also something they look for. Check out Robin’s pamphlet, The Great Vowel Shift here.
Watch Robin read here:
Robin Houghton’s work appears in many magazines including Agenda, Bare Fiction, Envoi, Magma, Poetry News and The Rialto, and in numerous anthologies. Also in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear). She won the Hamish Canham Prize in 2013, the Stanza Poetry Competition in 2014 (and was runner-up in the same competition in 2016) and the New Writer Competition in 2012. Her pamphlet The Great Vowel Shift was published by Telltale Press, the poets’ collective she co-founded in 2014. In 2017 she self-published a handmade limited edition mini-pamphlet Foot Wear. After winning the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet competition in 2017, Robin’s third pamphlet, All the Relevant Gods is out from Cinnamon in February 2018. She blogs at robinhoughtonpoetry.co.uk