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Margins of Reading – a poem by Alex Saynor for Peter Robinson

Retrieved Attachments CoverAlex Saynor writes: I have been inspired by Peter Robinson’s poems for several years now; the starting point for me was The Returning Sky, and I’ve loved all publications since, up to, and very much including, the recent Retrieved Attachments. I started teacher training at Reading School in 2007, and therefore feel an affinity and familiarity with many of the locations referred to in the poetry. When Buried Music was published, I sent ‘Inland Seagulls’ (referred to here) to the longstanding Head of English at the school, as it is set directly next to the school – he was really struck by the mention of Baudelaire’s albatross in the context of local imagery and wondered how the boys would react! There are references to other poems as well (including the amazing Locks and Moorings) and I have been very inspired by the syntactical style too. The encounter with Iain Sinclair refers to the hour or so before delivery of the Finzi lecture at London Road a few years ago now. In that connection, The Constitutionals was another book I found fascinating, especially as an avid reader of both Iain Sinclair and the late W.G. Sebald, both acknowledged in the book, whom I was fortunate to be taught by for one semester prior to his untimely death in October 2001.


Margins of Reading
For Peter Robinson

With all that brickwork, a shed ablaze
and also, through intersecting lines,
the sky at the far horizon,
there’s a gift for the burning bush
observed through rain-smudged glass,
in writings on negotiated walls
or in the voices of students on their way to class.

I once overheard you and Iain Sinclair
among porticoes on London Road.
It was something about the architecture of hospitals.
Do places retain a memory of pain?
In building anew, what do we remove?
Your eyes roam through famous and common land,
find what makes a town distinct

on the margins: gasometers, factories,
an odd inland gull, people on unique trajectories,
made new or strange by weather, politics,
light catching off glass by the Oracle offices
as though fire radiates across the valley
from a business park and cobbled together
nature reserve or gesture by Sonning.

Then the pause, the interregnum:
thoughts of Liverpool and stations in-between,
a life transplanted and re-planted
as a now quite utterly unique breed
in a Thames Valley influenced by the Far East
seen through a lens of past industry
with modern trade on credit seen for what it is

and mainstream media interests
less significant than the cracks on the road,
geese proliferating by Kennetside
road ends, salvaging moments
against the currents of memory
in fleeting cloud glimpses and aphorisms
converging in time and halting,
as you said, but only for now,
in the grounds of abbey ruins.

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