Our Robyn on reading

April 19, 2011

Our reader development officer Lilias grills our director Robyn upon her reading habits. If you fancy a joyous dip into the bookshelves, why not join our Lilias, Robyn and John Glenday on our delicious Reading Poetry for Pleasure course at Moniack Mhor in June

The house was quiet and the world was calm.

When do you get to read?

Very occasionally, sitting in a patch of sunlight in the living-room on a Sunday afternoon… that’s best of all. Otherwise, on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow (and it has to be a strong narrative to overcome Scotrail surroundings, not ideal for poetry); in bed at night, always.

I live for books
and light to read them in

What was the last poem you pressed on a friend, with a manic gleam in  your eye?

I’ve been recommending Jane Draycott’s beautiful translation of Pearl, a fourteenth-century poem of loss and consolation.

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no pleasure like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

If poems were food, name one fancy Heston Blumenthal-style starter, one hearty breakfast favourite and one guilty after-pub snack.

I understand that Heston Blumenthal has gone back to older English food traditions and remade them for current tastes, so what about an old poem, George Herbert’s ‘Prayer’ –which he likens to ‘a land of spices’; and then for uncomplicated nourishment, ‘Big Minty Nose’ by Jenny Bornholdt, full of the textures and scents of daily life (in her hometown, which happens to be mine), but also how those durable, repeated things connect us with what’s transient and loved – lots to grasp immediately in her deceptively casual style, lots that continues to reverberate; and for the guilty snack – but I don’t mind reading it openly – Lorraine Marriner’s Jessica Elton poems, including ‘Suntan’.

The pigs sleep in the sty: the bookman comes

What’s in your current reading pile, warts and all? (the pulp fiction and the gardening catalogues too..)

Volume 2 of Roy Foster’s fascinating biography of W.B. Yeats, The Arch-Poet; Simon Garfield’s book about fonts, Just My Type ( I’m still not able to distinguish Optima from Gotham at a hundred paces); and the May number of World of Interiors, which includes glorious photographs of John Campbell and Margaret Shaw’s house on Canna, now a museum housing their collection of Gaelic music and folklore. Besides Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, which sits there reproachfully,  I would normally have a novel or two in the pile, but they’ve just gone back to Hillhead Library – time to make another raid. I’m trying not to buy fiction!

And finally, you already have Shakespeare and the Bible on the desert island. You can keep one poem and one luxury. What’ll they be?

Oh dear, one poem is impossible! I could cheat with the Divine Comedy or Four Quartets, I suppose. ‘Sunday Morning’ by Wallace Stevens would give one a lot to think about… The luxury has to be pen-and-paper, an endless supply, more necessary even than chocolate biscuits.

Reading Poetry for Pleasure will take place at Moniack Mhor in Inverness-shire from 10 – 12 June. If you’d like more information, visit this post, or drop an email to Lilias on lfraser@spl.org.uk 

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