Peterloo Poets

Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009




BELL, Robin

Scanning the Forth Bridge



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Poems by Robin Bell


In the thirty years since his first book was published, Robin Bell's distinctive style has set critics struggling for comparison. The Times has compared him to Dylan Thomas, Poetry Review to Edgar Allan Poe, The Scotsman to Robert Frost and The Honest Ulsterman to Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning. The Spectator summed up his work as ‘sheer oddity and charm.’

He is probably best-known for Strathinver: a Portrait Album 1945-1953 which won the 1985 Sony Award for Best British Radio Feature. In 1992 his translations of the French poems of Mary, Queen of Scots, Bittersweet Within My Heart, became a Scottish best-seller. His controversial The Best of Scottish Poetry is the most widely used anthology of contemporary Scottish poetry in secondary schools. Poetry Review called his previous Peterloo collection, Radio Poems, 'a powerful achievement.’

In Scanning the Forth Bridge, Robin Bell's second Peterloo collection, the title poem is a handy mnemonic for metrical forms in which iambic trains, trochaic trains, dactylic trains etc cross the Forth Bridge in their various rhythms. More seriously, the volume includes haunting lyrics and love poems, some set in the author's native Perthshire, some taken from his family past or the history of places where he has worked: a disused church becomes a shelter in lambing season; an elephant is trapped in a First World War trench; a crusading journalist visits a slum in Manhattan; a Red Indian tour the Paris Exhibition of 1900.


Ruchill Linn

I heard a curlew in the almost dark
of midnight June. I heard it wake
among the wheat and free itself from fear
with one clear call.
                              The waterfall
was to itself a waterfall,
a moving in water, a white arc
of foam. It did not seek to slake
the trees nor thirst of you not here.

Heavy green branches overhung the pool.
The water formed itself on stone and formed the stone.
Its swirling rings
                        succour the movement of bright wings
and hidden roots and mindless bones.
Ruchill Linn. The world relaxes its hermetic rules

and lets us be tonight. Lie on the ground
and listen: to curlews’ calls
                                       and waterfalls
and the innocent sounds the world makes going round.


Price 7.95 per copy post free (5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover Illustration: Running the First Train over the New Forth Bridge (1890).
Courtesy of the Hulton Deutsch Collection Limited.
Publication: AUTUMN 1994 (56 pages laminated paperback)