Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Robin Robertson’s Sorrow

I started writing poetry in 5th grade and have used it as a tool to communicate my feelings for most of my life. Recently though my muses have taken leave and the only poetry I get to enjoy is from the reader’s end. My journey in poetry began in order to express my sorrows. I found that the depths of our pain can only be captured by some sort of metaphor, phrases like tightening of the chest, the heaviness of the chest, and maybe even  the fragility of a glass-like heart. One of the poets I encountered who seem to capture the imagery of sorrow is Robin Robertson. The concreteness by which he describes this profound emotion has captured my attention and I wish to share them with you today for Poetry Friday hosted by On the Way to Somewhere.


by Robin Robertson

An over-filled glass:

I take my head

in my hands,

careful not to spill.


Without a real death in my life

I had to make my own.

Now I build models of my father

out of smoke and light.

He was uncomfortable,
so I asked the nurse
if we could lift him higher.
He died an hour later.
Usually happens, she explained,
after you move them.
Forgive me, I say, at his feet,
through a mouthful of nails.


In his shirt-sleeves and flannels

I remember him:

a stitch in his side

from the long run home.


The dam he built

in the stream is finally broken:

cold Highland water

rushing to the sea.

The poem is taken from the Poet’s collection Slow Air. Robin Robertson is from the northeast coast of Scotland.  His poetry collection A Painted Field won the 1997 Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and the Saltire Society Socttish first Book of the Year Award. He lives in London.

13 comments on “Poetry Friday: Robin Robertson’s Sorrow

  1. Very sad indeed, Iphigene. Thanks for posting this week. 🙂


  2. Such perfect, gut-wrenching yet quiet images. Thanks for sharing, Iphigene.

    And watch out – those muses might strike again when you least expect them! ;0)


    • Hi Robyn,
      I love how you describe it so succinctly….gut-wrenching yet quiet. 🙂
      I hope they do come back. I haven’t stopped trying. 🙂


  3. Oh, my. Sorrow, indeed. That mouthful of nails…


    • Yes, isn’t that image so powerful Mary Lee…it’s very graphic and i think we’ve all felt that kind of sorrow at some point in our lives. thanks for dropping by.


  4. Wow. Such a powerful writer.


    • I discovered Robin Roberston by accident back when i was a teenager. I’ve always loved his work in concreteness and power of imagery. 🙂


  5. That is exactly how it feels to keep feelings locked in side until finally they break free. Beautiful poem.


    • Hi Rena,
      I’m happy to receives such wonderful comments for this poem and poet. As ‘gloomy’ as this poem is, its a favorite because of how seemingly accurate the poet picked up on the feeling.


  6. I love the imagery in the first and last of your quotations. I have to admit I shy away from the hospital one… But yes, powerful indeed.


    • Thanks Marjorie for dropping by.
      I have to say the last part of the poem is a beautiful ending to what felt like a very restrained image of sorrow. The way we try to hold things in until finally we just release the dam.


  7. Pingback: August Round Up and the Winner for the AWB Reading Challenge «

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