On a rare Wednesday evening off work, I went to see Robert Crawford reading at the Scottish Poetry Library – the Scottish Robert Crawford, that is, not the American one - at an event held by the Poetry Association of Scotland.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read a few of his poems, but I’m not familiar with his work. At present he has six collections and a Selected Poems, so I’m way behind. I knew he was Professor of Modern English Literature at St Andrews University, so I thought he might have been dry and academic, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
He was an excellent reader, dramatic without being over-the-top. His poems fell (from my point of view) into two categories. There were the poems reflecting on science, technology, identity, and language itself, which were clever, funny, and perceptive. And there were a group of more personal poems reflecting on fatherhood, death, and faith, which managed to find new slants and perspectives on their timeless themes.
One pervasive aspect of his poetry was the strong presence of rhythmic and sonic effects. You could never confuse these poems with prose, even without knowledge of where the lines were breaking. There was a music about them that immediately defined them as poems. Not that prose can't be musical (good prose should be), only that these poems simply couldn't have been prose! I can't easily define the difference, but I could hear it clearly.
Defintely a poet I plan to read more of. His Selected Poems is probably the place to start.