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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: John D Robinson WHEN YOU HEAR THE BELL THERE'S NOWHERE TO HIDE. Holy &Intoxicated Publications 2016 (84 pages)

John D. Robinson is one of many dozens of poets who operate just below the mainstream radar & who publish books of their own work. Robinson's poetry can be found widely on the net and some of the poems in the collection have previously appeared in magazines such as Red Fez, Mad Swirl, Your One Phone Call and the recently defunct Dead Snakes. Robinson, 53  is an exceedingly polite, working class bloke who has an interesting story to tell through his raw narrative & portrait poems.

This collection consists of 29 of Robinson's free verse narrative poems which recount in an unembellished, confessional way his take on some of his ‘every day’ experiences, such as having a day off work, being pulled over by a motorcycle cop, having a piss in a public urinal, waking up from an alcohol induced blackout & the perils of hitchhiking at 4 am in the morning.

As keenly observed are his portrait poems which focus on his study of eccentric & underclass people he comes across. ‘Getting To Know Each Other’, ‘One Of The Family’, ‘The Forgery’, ‘A Poem For Laurie’, ‘A Snap-Shot of Joanna’, ‘Hide And Seek’, ‘I Imagine’ and 'Neil and the Kitty Cat Scratch' are all clear & highly competent examinations  of crazy, often fucked up & drug dependent outcasts.

In John Grochalski's Foreword he notes, “John D. Robinson writes these poems with the experience and nerve to back it up. He passes no judgement on himself or his subjects, but just presents this cruel existence as it is lived in tough, plain language that hits you like a punch to the gut." Further on he writes, "What has always struck me about a Robinson poem is how stark and honest the language is, the grit that comes off the page and the life that is distilled into each line."

The poems in this collection are easy to read, and are often humorous, despite their bleak, down & out subject matter. They get you thinking about your own mishaps & follies & the dodgy people you have occasionally met & have tried to avoid ever since.

Here is a selection from John D Robinson's collection:


Her name was Clare, she was a few
years older than my I;
Clare had big breasts that
mesmerised me and she
would flirt with me, move in
real close and make me blush
and turn away –
“Would you do something
for me?” Clare asked
of me one day, “I’d really
appreciate it” she said
smiling and thrusting out
her chest.
“Okay” I said.
“Would you go and cash
this script?” she said
handing me a prescription
that was tightly folded
into small square;
as I took the paper from
her hand, her fingers
softly and briefly clasped
mine and she fluttered
her eyes and I looked
at her wonderful
cleavage and said
“Sure, okay”
The pharmacy was
close by, on the way
I unfolded the script,
a blind man could have
seen the obvious added
for amphetamine;
that didn’t stop me,
I thought of Clare’s
breasts and that
beautiful cleavage.
“It’ll take a few
minutes to process,
please take a seat”
said the pharmacist
smiling and friendly.
I sat down and just
a few minutes later 2
plain-clothed police
officers, a male and
female, approached me
and placed the hand of the
law upon me and took me
down to the station
where I was finger-printed,
questioned, to which I
responded with silence
and then placed into a
cell –
40 minutes later I
heard the wailing and
confessing, screeching
tearful tones of Clare;
On the day of our
court appearance Clare
wouldn’t even look
at me and her mother
believed that I had
forged the script and
looked at me with
we received 12 months
probation each.
Several years later I
learnt that Clare had been
involved in an RTA and
was now in a forever
I could only think of
those breasts,
of that magical cleavage
as she dances
free and child-like in
an amphetamine whirl
of sensual
eternal ecstasy.


A few weeks previous
I had seen him, staggering,
falling and crashing
head-first into a parked
car and then laying upon
the cold concrete and
cursing and shouting and
then laughing as he
gathered himself upright,
blood trickled from his
head and he lurched
forward; all the while
muttering and whispering
to himself;
I crossed the road to
avoid any contact and I
hurt myself to do so;
a university educated guy,
we had many literary
discussions and he always
told me ‘Read Faulkner,’
which I never did;
he worked hard and had
married in the university
town, raised children and
bought homes and cars and
then it all went wrong; I never
did find out what but he
returned to his home-town
and committed himself
to alcohol; he married a
simple woman and fathered
3 children and very
occasionally  I would visit
the family home and
drink with him;
he’d sit and sleep in an
armchair in the lounge;
beside the chair was a fridge;
he never slept for more than
2 or 3 hours at a time,
he’d awake and open the
fridge door and pull out
a can; the tv was always
on silent; flickering;
something to stare at
in the early hours; the
house was sparse, naked
of comfort or
friendliness or attraction
but home for 3
young lives; following the
breakdown of this marriage
he lived alone in rented
rooms and was evicted
again and again until
no landlord would
accept him and he ended
up on the streets;
he was in his early
50’s and
was found frozen to
death one
February morning in
a seaside alleyway;
I never made his funeral
and I know for shit-sure
that he won’t make mine.


“Get the fuck out” she ordered
after I had performed some
insane and dangerous
drunken behaviour within the
speeding vehicle;
I did as she asked and climbed
out of the car, it was about
4am and we had been
hurtling through murderous
narrow, dark country-lanes;
and then she sped away and
I expected her to turn around
after a few minutes but she
didn’t and I watched the
red tail-lights fade and
vanish into blackness;
I was fucked; miles from
town and now I had no
choice but to stagger along
the treacherous roads
thumbing for a ride on a
deserted and lonely road;
but it happened;
a car pulled over and I
stumbled towards the car
and clambered into the
front passenger seat smiling
and feeling relieved;
the driver was a little older
than I and he was pleasant
and talkative and then I
felt something cold and wet
and soft push forcefully
against the back of my neck
and then I heard a low
grumbling growl;
I was startled and my body
tensed in fear.
“Oh yes, of course” the driver
said casually “I almost
forgot about Spartacus,
he’s so quiet, I really wouldn’t
make any quick movements”
“What?” I whispered
“Be still, you don’t want
to startle Spartacus” he
“Spartacus?” I said
“Yeah, Spartacus, a 3 year
old black Doberman Pincer,
a nervous and unpredictable
dog sometimes” said the driver.
From out of the corner of an eye
I saw a grin cut across his
face and I sat still, very
still and I felt trapped,
frozen and scared;
I could feel Spartacus’
breath roll across the
nape of my neck but I
could no longer hear the
“That’s enough now
Spartacus” the driver said and
the dog pulled away and
sank back down into the rear
seats; I relaxed a little and
slowly looked over my
shoulder; Spartacus was a
fine specimen, sleek and
dark and powerful; I breathed
in deep and looked over
at the driver; the grin had
transformed into a loud
laugh and then after a
few moments he quietened
and concentrated silently
on the roads like
nothing had happened.
When we reached the
edges of town he pulled
over, turned and said to me
“Get the fuck outa my car”
I didn’t hesitate and he
sped away and I watched
the red tail-lights disappear
and I began walking and
I thought to myself, there
can’t be too many people
who can claim to have
been told, not once, but twice,
 to ’get the fuck
out of my car’
within an hour in the
sleepy moments before sunrise.

The above poems have previously appeared in Underground Books, The Clockwise Cats and Your One Phone Call.

Bio: John D. Robinson was born in 63 in the U.K. Many of his poems have appeared in small press and online journals. For information about purchasing John's book contact him here:

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