Poems by Sophie Robinson
My poetic background is in the avant-garde tradition, having come to poetry through an MA in poetic practice at Royal Holloway, which has a decidedly experimental focus. In the years following my MA, I have fused my education in the experimental with an interest in making fragmented and new ‘versions’ of lyric and confessional voices within my work. In doing this, three of my biggest influences have been Frank O’Hara, Bernadette Mayer, and Alice Notley.
I’m really interested in the casual mixture of humor, pop-culture spirituality, performative ‘confession,’ and affect within O’Hara’s work, and all of these things certainly infiltrate my practice. Through my writing I try to foster a sense of intimacy and vulnerability, often using direct address and ruptured forms of the confessional mode. At the same time, I try to make these things strange or new through incorporating the violent language of the corporation, of globalization, or by placing such moments within the banality of the everyday. All of these tactics are surely O’Hara-isms of one kind or another.
I’ve also been influenced by the (mis)use of historic or archaic forms in Mayer’s work, particularly with regards to the sonnet form. My first book, a, is held together by a sonnet cycle which explores the sudden death of my girlfriend, and my exploration of the limitations and potentials of the sonnet form definitely allowed me to develop my writing. To this day I’ve an unhealthy attachment to the ten-syllable line. I’m also really interested in Mayer’s interpretation of the traditional use of the sonnet as a relatively private or intimate space in which to express romantic/sexual love in order to investigate what such themes might sound like if we shrug off sentimentality and archaic forms of expression whilst retaining the formal and thematic elements of the sonnet form; TV and fisting replacing flowers and trees as love’s language.
Finally, and more recently, Alice Notley’s poetics has been a huge influence on my writing. At the level of the book or ‘whole’ project I’m very interested in Notley’s tendency to work in large conceptual projects which merge historical interests, research and language with autobiographical materials. I have recently completed a book length manuscript, SHE!, which attempts to do just that: it’s at once an ethnographic investigation into the cultural history of the lesbian as a public figure — mostly looked at through the language and imagery of lesbian pulp fiction from the 1950s and ’60s — and a form of documentation of events in my own life over three turbulent years, reflecting on the various ways in which bodies take shape and are shaped, and at times become public property with which to mark the boundaries of hegemonic space.
I’m currently working on a project entitled souvenir, which I began as part of my residency at the V&A museum, London, earlier this year. The aim of the project is to create a series of texts which treat small moments in time and domestic objects as museum artifacts. In this project I am also trying to deal with my poetic legacy, attempting to create interesting forms of lyric and confessional voices. I am also working on a series of text installations and found objects created from fragments of the poems, designed for domestic spaces.
& today my heart exists as a sur
face upon which your broken face is being
tattooed & as i wake the world whirrs prom
enading as a sitcom with the volume
up too loud we’re submerged in the black back
water of east canals & waking there
are holes in my bones which wind sings goodbye
to you through there’s a hole in your head you
wear on the outside & we’re slopped in factor
fifty nostalgia gulping down grammars
bile from far off sickness of our former
lives & i wear you as an abscess an
i shan’t survive this
winter without you & your upright brain
to keep mine warm & not bad no longer
needing public muscle to keep tight vigil
a psalm from celebrities of history
to make us safe to fix your feinting face
& mine full of spots & shipwrecked girls
to keep hold of me out the window of
the institute of our love in disrepair.
like a pig in a pantry i’m dun glutting
over you — brown teddy, ruffled brow —
multifaith cathedral of your invert
nipple — oink oink — o, I’m a wounded sex
soldier — orgasm’s defibrillation
in the heart hospital — measly muscle
slapp’d up — i’m a dead pig, you’re fucking meat,
stuff me i’m full sorry, drown’d, lubed up for
forgetting, stains on the mattress because
you’re missing from me — your kindest vagina,
folds like a buddha — bite down finger in &
think of you in winter never to cum
in my arms again or come to any harm.
i’m sick of love & sad for what I’ve lost:
that bullshit fix of nervy hands has gone &
rude spring’s a bully, sun & wavy cold air
& you are well, i having never been well i,
i want to meet you anew and be loved &
not thought of as silly — to you now i’m
a clown or a dog waiting to be put down
& so my breasts are hairy teats for cubs i love
& are not born, & not for you, my new nude
is atrocious & i wonder who you
think of in the shower, what wets your meat
if not my putrid body you once & gently
fucked & which i, promising it to you, have lost
the receipt for. go away for a long time
& meet me at the airport, run me a bath
as before with water from the kettle so
kind & we’ll shiver in two inches forever,
thigh on thigh never shrinking from the
moment but cycling it around the time
we do have, having been given each other, &
never unadorned or waiting to get broke.
i’d wait to die forever to have unlost
that time & die to lose it all again,
having taken too much, having got
love unspent not wanted & staid unhappy
inside the kettle waiting to be filled kindly,
touched on the cunt or met at the airport with the
ghosts of animal kingdoms still inside me.