Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inspired by the Power of Poetry; Mark Robinson Has Proved It Is Possible to Be a Decision-Maker in a Suit and a Successful Poet. Here He Picks Some of Books That Inspired Him READERS' LIVES

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inspired by the Power of Poetry; Mark Robinson Has Proved It Is Possible to Be a Decision-Maker in a Suit and a Successful Poet. Here He Picks Some of Books That Inspired Him READERS' LIVES

Article excerpt

Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus (Harvard University Press, 1989) I had my life changed by punk and postpunk, being 13 in 1977. I distinctly remember seeing Magazine on Top of the Pops and discussing Howard Devoto with a friend the next day, after games. From there it was a slippery slope to being that archetypal 6th former with Jean Paul Sartre in the pocket of my baggy overcoat. Lipstick Traces is a tour-de-force of intellectual join-the-dots that explains quite why I was so utterly changed. He connected Dada and the Cabaret Voltaire, the Situationists, Sex Pistols, Gang of Four, and lots more, to much older traditions of rebellion and counterculture.

This book is a whole education in itself.

For better or worse, it''s deep in my intellectual DNA.

The Penguin Book of Socialist Poetry edited by Alan Bold (Penguin, 1970) I bought this book from a second-hand stall in the students' union at Liverpool University, where I studied in the stormy mid-80s. It introduced me to an international range of poets, including Latin Americans like Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo, and a generation of great Eastern European poets such as Miroslav Holub, one of only two poets I''ve ever consciously asked to sign their books. What I loved was the way it shows political commitment could come across in accessible but not dumb verse, not be a matter of agreeing or not - that a poem could be an experience. Years later I was proud to be in an anthology of British Socialist Poetry co-edited by one of my heroes from this book, Adrian Mitchell.

Poetry With An Edge edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe, 1993) Bloodaxe is one of the North East''s greatest cultural powers and this was the first anthology of theirs I bought, a year or two out of university and starting to learn what writing and reading were really all about. The Eng Lit bit of my degree had singularly failed to teach me that. I found so many poets through this book - from Ken Smith to Simon Armitage before his first book. I started a poetry magazine and press, Scratch, partly inspired by Bloodaxe''s example that poetry could be in and of the world. Neil''s intro even had a few hints of how to do it. The title always summed up what I aspired to in poetry - not just ideas, or feeling, but edge. Later, when I worked at Northern Arts and Arts Council, it was a privilege to support Bloodaxe. …

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