Poems by Robin Bell
Robin Bell has won many awards for his poetry, including the Sony award for Best Radio Feature in 1985, the only time that poetry has earned Britain’s top broadcasting prize. In the mid-1980s the BBC has devoted more feature broadcast time to his poetry than to any other living British poet. His Radio Poems ally techniques of modern documentary with traditional narrative verse.
Of the three documentary poems in this Peterloo volume, two have been produced for BBC radio by John Arnott. Melville Bay is narrated by a young ship’s surgeon on a whaling expedition in 1837. It focuses on the deep bonding that can occur between those who survive a tragedy. The Other Theif records a contemporary case of a man who returns to burgle his childhood home. It is concerned with the extreme violence of the innocent. The reader/listener becomes the theif’s accomplice. The third poem Chasing The Bear, deals with the interceptance of a Soviet airforce surveillance mission by NATO phantom jets, leading to the crash of a Russian nuclear bomber off Britain’s northern seaboard. It was researched in the USA where The Freedom of Information Act makes it easier to gain access to sensitive NATO defence material. The BBC considered it unacceptable for broadcasting.
From reviews of Robin Bell’s Radio Poems and earlier volumes:
‘Sheer oddity and charm’
‘Wit and moving veracity’
Val Arnold Foster/Guardian
‘Grave and compassionate…marvellously funny’
George Mackay Brown/The Scotsman
‘Gives the reader a sense of being personally involved’
Alan Bold/Books In Scotland
Chasing The Bear (extract)
in Murmansk; so are those Klondike ships
that buy up fish along the Scottish coast.
They land where they like. How ’bout that for security?
In Ullapool pubs, your friendly KGB
drinking with the locals. Like a trading post
- intelligence and blue jeans on every trip.
Cases of scotch, porn, high-tech toy submarines
- Soviet fishermen snap ‘em up and ship ’em home.
I guess Russian housewives accept everything
on the black market stinks of salt herring.
And I’ll bet Soviet aircrew distribute them
with kickbacks to the communist machine.
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover photograph: The destruction of The Crystal Palace by fire on the night of 30th November 1936. (Courtesy of The Illustrated London News picture Library).
Publication: SPRING 1989 (56 pages laminated paperback).