Having ended yesterday’s blog with words by W B Yeats, the C20th Irish poet, today I move on to T S Eliot … oddly, by way of Zoom. My second Zoom session, yesterday, was (of all things) a Zoom-enabled poetry reading by the British Jamaican writer Roger Robinson. And the Eliot connection is that Robinson this year won the T S Eliot prize for poetry. Mind you, this session had no to-and-fro between all the participants, since the meeting host (from the Arvon poetry foundation) muted us all, and made us invisible.
So – Roger Robinson. A large-bearded, grey-haired, middle-aged writer, showing his erudition (like all savvy Zoom-users!) by being pictured in front of bulging bookshelves. A man with a deep, warm, Caribbean-scented voice. Someone appalled by the implicit racism of our society, our general disregard of what he called ‘black and brown people’. And a poet of skill, energy and profundity. The poems he read came from his prizewinning collection ‘A Portable Paradise’, a book full of sharply-honed anger at the Grenfell Tower disaster, at the Windrush scandal. And, he said, it could equally well be about Covid-19, with its disproportionate impact on our ethnic minority population. Asked about his relation to Eliot’s very different poetry, he said: ‘‘The Waste Land’ isn’t my jam. But ‘Four Quartets’, that’s my jam.’ Fascinating that this very urban poet should find solace in Eliot’s most profound and spiritual poems….