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This review is taken from PN Review 141, Volume 28 Number 1, September - October 2001.

TROMPE L'OREILLE PETER ROBINSON, About Time Too (Carcanet) £8.95

Peter Robinson's latest collection plaits together the present and the past from three different countries: England, Italy and Japan, where he now lives. All three countries have gone into the making of Robinson's poetry: coincidences, such as earthquakes at Kobe and at Assisi, the occasion for two sequences 'Aftershocks' and 'More Aftershocks', become part of the pattern where the individual, apparently almost humdrum life is teased out from the contexture of contemporary history and is revealed as more than ordinary:

In this life there's no end of scars,
no end of being in the wars -
a car crash, brain surgery, now the caesarian
cut faintly marring your mother

And not only contemporary history; medieval art and a classical Japanese poet are important strands, too. The whole collection is bound together by a continuous preoccupation, almost to the extent of being a leitmotif, with his family in Japan. The first section is dominated by the imminent birth of his second daughter. 'Days Before' recounts a dream where he listens to his as yet unborn daughter tell him 'that it's the children choose their own parents' and we are delicately drawn into a world where the seemingly mundane has some disturbing slippages. The present and the past double back on themselves or protrude into one another like the cucumber and apple in the Crivelli painting on the cover. Robinson often achieves the aural equivalent of such trompe l'oeil. The Crivelli 'Annunciation' ...


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