14 MAY 2020
Anyone locked down and seeking a little encouragement in the face of uncertainty will relish this fourth poem suggested by the Poetry Book Society. Members will find it in their own area of the website and should log in and read it there along with all sorts of other items pertinent to the Lock down!
A PORTABLE PARADISE BY ROGER ROBINSON
And if I speak of Paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel,
hostel or hovel – find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.
'A Portable Paradise’ from A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press, 2019) © Roger Robinson, reproduced by permission of Peepal Tree Press. Available to order here with 25% off for PBS Members.
Last week Roger Robinson was awarded the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for his powerful collection A Portable Paradise. In this, the title poem, he offers a timely reminder of the richness of our own imaginations and how treasured memories can shine a light in the darkest of times: “Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope / of morning”. RSL Judge and poet Pascale Petit described A Portable Paradise as a “profoundly moving book (which) manages to balance anger and love, rage and craft. Every poem surprises with its imagery, emotional intensity and lyric power, whether dealing with the Grenfell Fire, Windrush, or a son’s difficult birth. This is a healing book, enabling us to conjure our own portable paradises”. It's this hope of future healing and a good night's sleep which we all need now more than ever, as "life puts us under pressure", so go forth and find your lamp.
Roger Robinson is a poet, writer and educator who has taught and performed worldwide. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. His latest collection A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press) won the 2019 TS Eliot Prize and he has previously been shortlisted for The OCM Bocas and Oxford Brookes Poetry Prizes. He is a co-founder of Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and an alumni of The Complete Works.
POETRY BOOK SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP
This week is your last chance to join the Poetry Book Society’s Summer book mailing for more poetic inspiration, joy and solace. PBS Members enjoy a year of carefully curated poetry parcels delivered to their door every quarter, as well as 25% off all books at www.poetrybooks.co.uk. Join by Friday 15th May as a Choice Member and you'll receive the PBS Summer Choice poetry book, How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil, and Summer magazine, full of poems, interviews and reviews. JOIN HERE
Poet Image credit: Naomi Woddis