Monday, April 20, 2009

It's five years today that poet, artist and publisher Ian Robinson died. By chance, in the last few days, I came across some copies of his magazine Oasis - in the days when POD is creating a uniform look for poetry publications, it's worth remembering what a bit of artistic flair and a photocopier could do. Ian's press, Oasis Books, has a back-list which is like a roll-call of the best practitioners from the 70s onwards. Here's a tribute I wrote for Poetry Nottingham, soon after Ian's death.

My friendship with Ian Robinson was one of those strange ones so common in our world of small presses and poetry magazines; we never met, and we knew very little about each other's personal lives, but there was fellow-feeling and mutual regard, and a sustained sense of comradeship. After Adrian Buckner had sent him the first Leafe Press pamphlet I'd published, Ian wrote to me in a characteristically enthusiastic, helpful and wise tone. I soon grew familiar with the small, neat script of his handwritten letters, which arrived regularly on the doormat, often with one of his Oasis publications. His advice, encouragement and concrete support (such as putting Leafe Press flyers into Oasis magazine) were a significant factor in keeping my little press going. Like Adrian, I was introduced by Ian to other poetries, such as the concrete and visual poetry that he was an exponent of, and about which he corresponded with contacts in a number of countries. I, of course, was only one of a whole range of poets, artists and editors with whom Ian corresponded. He also published, promoted and assisted them with their writing. His energy seemed endless; his interest in, and support for, other people and their work was exemplary. For me, he embodied the spirit of samizdat and camaraderie that helps to keep poetry alive.


Ed Baker said...

should have sent Ian some "stuff" in the early 70's


maybe today I wouldn't be so

Alistair Noon said...

Hear hear. I too have a couple of those long, positive, encouraging letters in small handwriting. They made a big difference.

richard lopez said...

that is strange, isn't it, that some of my most significant and meaningful relationships are with poets i've not yet met in the flesh too.

perhaps not strange at all upon retrospect. still, i think having poet-friends is absolutely necessary and critical for my own sanity as a man and poet.

no matter where they be and if we've not met in the flesh.

Alan Baker said...

For a long time I wrote poetry in complete isolation, in the sense that no-one I knew was interested in it. Working in IT didn't help. I wonder how I managed it. My situation couldn't be more different now, and the network of contacts, support and friendship is crucial, in fact it provides a rationale for the whole thing. I don't know if it makes any difference to the poetry, but it's a lot more interesting and fulfilling.

Actually, of course, it does make a difference to the poetry, because other people open you up to new influences and ideas.