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Roger Robinson

Critically acclaimed Poet, Educator, Performer
T.S. Eliot prize & Ondaatje prize winner

“Beautiful, haunting, thought-provoking... A book I will return to again and again.”

Bernadine Evaristo MBE on Home Is Not A Place

Grenfell was an event so devastating many of us struggled to find the words for it, so what better time to turn to one of the most prominent voices in Caribbean-British poetry. I would go so far as to say Robinson is one of the most important poetic voices in the UK right now. There are poems here that broke me and I cried all over again for the victims of Grenfell, but as I read on, I was pulled through other voices, all carrying the pain and rage of their history. Reading these poems I got to meditate on Sade, Bob Marley and Stuart Hall, but also a nurse called Grace who “sang pop songs on her shift, like they were hymns”; I got to read the prayers of a father for his son. This is the role of any great poet, to honour the best and hardest part of living so they can give us a language for what we have in us that makes survival possible.

Raymond Antrobus on A Portable Paradise

“With A Portable Paradise, Roger Robinson shows us that he can be the voice of our communal consciousness, while at the same time always subverting, playing and beguiling with his beautiful verse.

Afua Hirsch on A Portable Paradise

Biography

Internationally Acclaimed Poet, Writer, Performer, Educator & Mentor, Roger Robinson, Was Born In Hackney In 1967 To Trinidadian Parents.

Relocating from London to Trinidad with his family aged 4, Roger later returned to the UK aged 19. Describing himself as “a British resident with a Trini sensibility,” his formative years in the Caribbean resonate strongly through his writing. In 2019 and 2020 respectively, his critically-acclaimed collection, A Portable Paradise, won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, was shortlisted for the Derek Walcott prize, and was listed as New Statesman Book of the Year.

His most recent collection for the collaborative project Home Is Not A Place with photographer Johny Pitts, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards in 2022 and listed as a Guardian Poetry Book of the Year 2022.

Roger was chosen by Decibel and Arts Council England as one of 50 writers who have influenced the Black-British writing canon, and his work has been featured in a number of prominent anthologies, including The Forward Book of Poetry 2024, Mapping The Future – The Complete Works Poets, Poetry Unbound – 50 Poems To Open Your World, The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain, The Fire People and Bloodaxes’ Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets.

He has received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, BBC, Tate, The National Portrait Gallery, V&A, INIVA, MK Gallery and Theatre Royal Stratford East, where he was associate artist. He is an alumni of The Complete Works, a national mentorship programme founded by Bernadine Evaristo MBE.

Short Bio

Roger Robinson is the critically acclaimed author of A Portable Paradise, a stirring collection which won both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize in 2019 & 2020 respectively.

His most recent collection for Home Is Not A Place, published by William Collins, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards in 2022. His book The Butterfly Hotel was shortlisted for the 2014 OCM Bocas Poetry Prize, The Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize & was highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize in 2013 & his 2nd poetry collection, Suckle, won the Peoples Book Prize in 2010. He has been chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon.

He has received commissions from the National Trust, London Open House, BBC, Tate, the National Portrait Gallery, V&A, INIVA, MK Gallery & Theatre Royal Stratford East. His workshops have been shortlisted for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museums & Galleries & were also part of the Barbican’s Webby award winning Can I Have A Word. Roger has toured extensively with the British Council & is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab & the global writing collective Malika’s Kitchen.

Publications

Home Is Not A Place

Poetry, 2021, William Collins

Masterful.. A thing of brilliance

Caleb Azumah NelsonAuthor of Open Water

In 2021, award-winning poet Roger Robinson and acclaimed photographer Johny Pitts rented a red Mini Cooper and decided to follow the coast clockwise in search of an answer to the question: What is Black Britain now in this time? Leaving London, they followed the River Thames east towards Tilbury, where the Empire Windrush docked in 1948. Too often, that is where the popular history about Black Britain begins and ends – but Robinson and Pitts continued out of London, following the coast clockwise through Margate to Land’s End, Bristol to Blackpool, Glasgow to John O’Groats and Scarborough to Southend on Sea.

Home Is Not a Place is the spectacular result of their journey.

A Portable Paradise

Poetry, 2019, Peepal Tree Press

…A Portable Paradise, finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of ‘sweet, sweet life’

John BurnsideT.S. Eliot Prize Chair

Both a protest against social injustice & a love offering to humanity, A Portable Paradise is a striking example of the profound power of poetry, when emotional connection & mastery of craft find synchronicity. The writing reveals a desire to reach the audience in tangible, lasting ways, achieved principally through Robinsons’ ethereal imagery, which gives the reader the impression of having one foot in this life and one in another realm.

Whether read or listened to, the poems, by turn enraged & tender, are incantatory & like prayers, they generate hope. They also convey an irrepressible sense of Robinsons’ generosity of spirit, his deep love of people & a respect for the full spectrum of wonder & horror that comprises the human experience. 

The Butterfly Hotel

Poetry, 2013, Peepal Tree Press

Roger Robinson’s elegant, subtle and terse pieces in The Butterfly Hotel confirm his status as one of the important voices in contemporary Black British and Caribbean poetry”

Eric Doumercfor Miranda

Roger Robinson writes from a place somewhere between Trinidad and Brixton, an insider/outsider vantage point that leads him to see a state of alienation and unbelonging in Black British London that is perhaps no longer so visible to those who have no other world.

The very fear of loss generates a drive to recreate the remembered world in all its richness, humour and sensuality and […] Roger Robinson’s poems display a faith in a human capacity for regeneration, of shaping new concepts of home. In moving, pared-down lyrics, expansive prose poems, witty ballads and even a prayer, Roger Robinson’s poems are marked by an engagement with the sounds and rhythmic resources of language drawn from both Trinidad and Britain.

On Creativity Ebook

Self Development/Education, 2023

Drawing on his own three decades of experience, Roger Robinson shares his artistic practices honed throughout a lifetime of creativity to guide you through over 120 guiding principles to fuel your own creativity.

With much of the content battle-tested through years of workshops and conversations with fellow creatives, ‘On Creativity’ offers an invaluable glimpse, providing insight into the bedrock principles that sustain his enduring creative practice.

On Poetry Ebook

Self Development/Education, 2023

With concision and insight , Roger Robinson skillfully imparts his expertise from his multi award winning career as a poet. He walks readers through many ways to think about poems and poetry taking the most complexed of poetry ideas and simplifying them to be accessible to the intermediate writer.

On Poetry is a book of cheat codes for poets, imparting huge amounts of information in a simplified and condensed form and is an invaluable glimpse into decades of poetic thought and teaching, full of prompts, poetics, practice and principles of structure; a must-have for all lovers of poetry.

Anthologies & Collabs

Video

The City Kids See the Sea 1:33

On A Portable Paradise and creative citizenship | 5×15 14:00

Roger Robinson reads ‘Ghosts’ 2:03

Roger Robinson talks about his work 3:10

‘The Missing’ from A Portable Paradise 2:09

RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 – Roger Robinson Winner Q&A 1:31

Ordinary Poems Won’t Change the World 51:25

FRSL 0:45

Selected Writings

A Portable Paradise

And if I speak of Paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel,
hostel or hovel – find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.

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