Seeing Robert Lowell Plain



    Pushed by professors I came to hear him read,
    peered down upon a greying shock of hair
    to catch that strange patrician Boston voice
    risen from the fugitive South intone
    ‘I saw the spiders marching through the air.’
    It took me ten more years to find the thread.
    I thought him then like my professors –
    brilliant, interminable, tense
    (and tiresome in pursuit of booze or girls).
    He hoped his poems were ‘heartbreaking’ and asked,
    ‘Can I be forgiven the life-waste of my lifework?’
    What it costs others is always their secret.
    Yet riches survive the wrecks of that life,
    marbled with history, muscled with pain.

    Tony Roberts’s fourth book of poems, Drawndark, appeared in 2014. He is also the author of an essay collection, The Taste in My Mind (2015), and the editor of Poetry in the Blood (2014), all from Shoestring Press. Concerning Roberts’s poetry, Al Alvarez wrote of ‘an authentic adult voice, tender, ironic, relaxed and highly educated’. Reviewing his prose, John Forth found ‘a detailed map of the age … condensed to appear as table talk’.