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This review is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

Cover of Ravishing Europa
Tim Dooley‘Belonging’s tainted now’
Peter Robinson, Ravishing Europa (Worple) £10
Peter Robinson’s poetry has long worked within a tradition that is both provincial and international. He is a successor to poets such as Charles Tomlinson, Roy Fisher and Elaine Feinstein, whose work can be plain-speaking while coloured by a modernist suspicion of language, rooted in a particular location while open to influence from abroad. In the past, Robinson has chronicled the lives and landscapes of the left-behind in the north-west of England and his experience as expatriate in Italy and economic migrant and Japan. It is perhaps no surprise then that, in Ravishing Europa, he has turned his attention to the phenomenon of Brexit and, in doing so, given his writing a more polemic turn.

The opening poem, ‘Belongings’, repeats the phrase ‘staying in Europe’ playing on its double sense of ‘visiting’ and ‘remaining’ as the poet arrives in Parma (the home of his wife’s family) finding:
                  
    […] what’s true
is we belong among these homes
(the popular housing of post-war years)

The point – that the experiences Europeans share are more important than their differences – is made earlier in the poem through a meeting on a train with some young Belgians, ‘with strawberries, a ball of wool / and a copy of Apollinaire’s Alcools’. In one example, what is shared is class and generational experience; in the other, access to a common culture.

Throughout this new collection, Robinson rubs up against, and interrogates, the toxic lexicon of recent debates around nationality and migration. Theresa May’s flippant remark that ...


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