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Hang In There. Published by Uncollected Press 2019

Hang in There. Published by Uncollected Press 2019

John D. Robinson, poet and creator of Holy & Intoxicated Publications UK

John D. Robinson author of the recently published ‘Hang in There’ talks with HOT’s Chandra Masoliver about seven of his poems, and ways they come from his life.

 

 

 

Hang in there
Hang in there
like a ghost falling
into the rain,
like a ship drifting
into a smothering fog,
hang in there
like it’s your last
breath, the final
word said,
the last page
read and turned,
hang in there
and scream the
injustice you feel,
that you see, as a
third of the world’s
human population
lacks
shelter
food
water,
hang in there
like heaven itself
awaiting its fate,
like waiting for the man
on a street-corner
who will make things
good again
hang in there
whatever
it takes

CM: When I read this I couldn’t get the feeling of ‘like a ghost falling into the rain’ out of my imagination. Please tell me about this poem, and what was going on in your life at the time?

JR: I feel this poem reflects what is going on in all our lives: rich, poor, bum or president, we all face the relentless barrage of armed global conflicts, the violence that rampages through our streets, the greed and callousness that we are capable of, the ever surging stories of injustice. But we hang on for one reason or another: Love, God, family and friends, to pay the bills, to survive in hope that things will get better, so I guess the poem is saying live this day like it was your last. We are fragile beings and we don’t know what’s around the corner. Like Bukowski said, life is “War All The Time” in one way or another.

The Flick of a Switch
For 4 days now
I’ve been nodding
from 7am to early
evening on codeine,
hash and diazepam:
night brings the
pleasure of wine and
poetry,
this all comes to
nothing, like
everything else
but there is a
beauty in this
as there is in the most
common of human
things, simple stuff,
like getting high
like writing poetry
eating a meal
taking a bath
taking a walk
talking to cats
like loving this life
which is no more
than the flick of
a switch.

CM: What about drugs in your life?

JR: I would never advocate or support the use of outlaw drugs. Drugs have been part of my life since my mid-late teens. I have found myself in difficult situations, and it took many years and sustained efforts to make friends with my demons. I keep a safe distance from my demons, they may be friends but I know of their treachery. I have lost several friends to heroin overdose and this is a drug I have never experienced and never will, a decision I made when I was 18 and I witnessed someone cold-turkey; it was a harrowing experience.

Alcohol has taken many more friends and acquaintances of mine, including my father. This demon is also predatory. I’ve had my times of drunken altercations whilst drinking on the streets as a young man. I left the streets and began drinking in bars and there were a few occasions that I was caught up in some madness. These days I drink alone: I never drink during the day or before 9pm. Wine is my choice, my diablo, but like I say, we are friends and we both know when to stop. I am very reclusive these days, I do not socialize: I feel better when I am alone with my cats and classical music.

Cover by Janne Karlsson. To be published by Cajun Mutt Press

Cover by Janne Karlsson. To be published by Cajun Mutt Press

The Hollow People
A large proportion of my work
is listening to people, sometimes
it can be captivating and
interesting, funny or serious and
heartbreaking but mostly the
talk is mostly trivial, boring,
repetitive, an endless flow of
irrelevant bullshit: but I
listen. I’m paid to listen, to
hear words that are the lives
of the fucked-up and lonely,
to the lost and ‘don’t give a
shit’ to help me, save me,
the victim, the scared and
hollow people:
and I am each and
everyone one of them, I
hear and speak their
language, know of their
needs and weakness’s,
I have come through it and
now hold the hand of
those who didn’t.

CM: Just explain this one please.

JR: The poem mirrors the many characters I have met, people that live and die on the fringes of our society: outcasts, outsiders, people that do not fit in with what is socially accepted and expected, people that are ignored, pushed aside and judged unworthy, the lost and broken souls that fall between the crevices of an environment that quite often turns its back to what is in front of its eyes. When consumed and engulfed in alcohol and or drugs, there is a distance created, the world is out of reach and it is no longer yours. I have been these people. I have been to the darkest of places and I have known people who have stayed in that dark place. I didn’t. I have been fortunate in my life. I had people that cared for me and supported me to see another way, to look at this life as it is or can be. Life is beautiful, people are beautiful: this poem is a love poem for those people. The Lakota Sioux say ‘we are all related, whether it walks, crawls, flies, slithers, swims, hops, we are all related.’ We must keep hope, the human spirit can endure so much, but it can be weak and be broken. I deal with tragedy by writing about such things, they are part of who I am and what I see, hear and think.

On the Front Lawn.
I didn’t know where we were
but I knew we were what seemed
like a long way from home;
I was 10 years old and my father
had passed out drunk in a stretch
of unfamiliar woodland; in a
few hours, evening would fall
and a panic seized me; I shook
him hard, shouted and
screamed at him and then
kicked him hard in the ribs,
he gasped and cried out
without opening his eyes; I
wandered away , not knowing
where I was headed and after
25 minutes of pacing the
streets I began to recognise
the surroundings and found
my way home; my mother
sobbed and apologised for
things I didn’t understand;
my father returned in
the early hours: I saw him
in the morning, asleep on the front
lawn as I parted the curtains and
a feeling of joy and confusion
engulfed me and disappeared quickly
as my mother screamed at me
to ignore the asshole.

CM: This is very vivid about a boy and his parents. Is this how it was for you?

JR: Yes. My mother is a strong-willed woman and she put up with a great deal of drunken bullshit from my alcoholic father; he wasn’t a violent man when drunk but could be argumentative and provocative and scary to be around, and I knew he was hurting my mother. Many years later, the first chance I had, I knocked him on his ass. When I was growing up, my father was hardly at home, he was either on a drinking binge that could last for weeks or in prison for burglary, shoplifting, breaking and entering.

My mother worked hard and we never went without food and shelter. I think I get my sense of determination and strong sense of spirit from my mother. She is a very proud person, and rightly so, I love her dearly and she is very supportive of my poetry. My parents divorced when I was about twelve. I was in my late teens when I began to know and get to love my father for who he was. My mother married again and found the happiness that most long for.

The Conflict.
Something was about to happen,
we could feel it, we could sense
it, some shit was about to occur
and I was part of it:
on hearing the guy’s scream
as the bicycle chain cut into
his cheek-bone and collapsing
onto the concrete, clutching
his face, we knew it was time to
take flight the 5 miles back to
the barracks: our hearts were
thundering and our heads
drowning in exhilaration
and youthful exuberance
and we knew pretty soon
we’d be punished by our
our own kind for fighting with
those that we would
defend and sacrifice
ourselves for in a time
of military conflict.

CM: This has crass brutality and complex human politics in it. What are your feelings about it?

JR: I was 16 years old, a boy soldier, and although we had been warned not to go into town, five or six of us did. We hit a few bars and flirted with some local girls. We left the bar to walk the 5 miles back to the barracks and became aware of a group of lads following us. They began dragging the wooden and metal bars they were armed with across metal gates and fences. two guys from our group began to walk towards the gang, two guys from the gang walked forward. It happened within moments, one of our guys had a bicycle chain and slashed this fellow’s face. These guys were out to hurt us, they were ‘squaddie bashers’. It was exciting; later, when reflecting on what happened it was shocking and harrowing and senseless. That cry is still here, that night still haunts me. Needless to say, for numerous reasons, I didn’t last too long in the military services.

The Debt Owed.
She bled my
meagre wallet,
kissed me,
fucked me,
took all that
I had
and I never
had the chance
to thank her.

CM: How do sex and love connect for you?

JR:

They can be one and the same of course. Love is interpreted by every human being on the planet in a different way. It can offer treasures and peace and tranquillity, invoke a spiritual presence; but like everything else, Love is not invincible and can be broken or lost or never experienced at all. It can be abused, used as a reason to try and justify violence and wars and individual brutalities.

Sex is beautiful, natural – love can bring a deep tenderness to sex, it can bring a pleasure like no other. It can initiate a sense of mutual liberation from the madness around us, or it can and does often become part of this madness Sex for sale: pornography, the exploitation of the image of women. The wonder and the vicious abuse of sex has always been present and it’s not going to go away – there are women who are sex slaves, smuggled into the country and taken to some shit hole brothel: the depth of human callousness is incalculable, bottomless.

Portrait of John D Robinson by Henry G Stanton

Portrait of John D Robinson by Henry G Stanton

1960’s Pop Culture and Stravinsky.
Walked out of the office midday,
got high on hash and diazepam
and watched ‘Mary Magdalene’
with a friend:
purchased some wine on the
way home, took some codeine
and smoked some joints;
I saw my wife pull up in her
car; a pop song from the 1960’s
came over the radio and I
began dancing in the kitchen,
my wife came in, she didn’t
take off her coat but embraced
me and we danced and held
each other; when the song
ended, we lingered for a short
while, smiling at our own
playfulness and then
Bessie the dog grew jealous
and started barking loudly
and demanding my wife’s
attention, the 2 cats were
startled and leapt on top
of the kitchen cupboards
as we let go and Stravinsky
took to the airwaves.

CM: Sounds like you get off your head and still have good, funny and tender times at home. That’s more than hanging in there – more like keeping it all together.

JR: I would not say that I get off my head but rather distort and rearrange my being, physically and mentally. We have been married for over 3 decades, have one daughter and 3 grandchildren. My wife and I live quietly now, we have grown together and we still have moments of tenderness and silliness, moments of romance, sweet moments, that make this life a little easier. My wife is my editor and when I show her some new poems and I hear her laughing I know that the poem makes the cut. I would not be here now if it weren’t for my wife, she saved my ass, that’s for sure.

Hank Stanton from ‘Raw Art Review: ‘Uncollected Press’ is nominating ‘Hang In There’ for a Pushcart Prize. For enquiries about John D Robinson’s poetry please email johndrobinson@yahoo.co.uk

Posted 10:57 Monday, Nov 18, 2019 In: Poetry

3 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Michael Madden

    Great to see some poetry about nitty gritty issues like this, which often produce the best work (as in this case). Very interesting interview. Many thanks.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 @ 11:53

  2. Zelly Restorick

    I really enjoyed reading this interview and John’s poems.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Very honest poetry from the heart and real life.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Monday, Nov 18, 2019 @ 20:53

  3. Eadweard

    Poetry so hard and real, yet tender and sweet too, like the legend of Sampson who found that out of the strong came forth sweetness, a bee’s nest in the carcass of a lion. John Robinson has that unexpected quality in swarms. Hang in there John until I buy your book.

    Comment by Eadweard — Monday, Nov 18, 2019 @ 20:27

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