The poems collected in these three books represent a huge range of themes and forms, encompassing retellings and rewritings of Galileo’s story, of Creation myths of various cultures, and of the Romans, the latter appearing as a ghostly presence, leaping out of the past to rush past the narrator in a chariot! There are poems which look to space, to history, to world conflict, and then there are those which refocus, looking through the microscope of poetry to ‘peer in each pond, /scan each path’ for the frogs and hedgehogs in the poet’s garden, or the memories of the whales and witches drawn on the kitchen table, or the familiar sounds of the bath-taps in one’s own house. These are deftly mixed in with poems about playful inquiry: who exactly is ‘A. Non’? Why can’t we use the word ‘and’ a lot in our writing? These questions about The Rules of writing speak to those in his school workshops, inviting children to write, to experiment, to throw out the rulebook and start a poem.
Whilst appealing to children’s natural sense of rhythm through list poems and repetition, Robert Hull’s poetry does not talk down to his audience, nor pander to ‘traditional’ topics for children. His exploration of universal themes of loss and love appeal as much to adults as children, and even those more accessible to the youngest are multilayered and rich; ‘Arundel swimming pool’, with its noisy splashes and shouting and ‘good fun for everyone’, is going to be shut down ‘to make a lot of money / for someone’, speaking as much about local politics and a sense of community as ‘all the slosh / and swirl and splash / and shouting friendly din’. The community swimming pool in Robert’s poem is only one very recognisably British location evoked in these poems. These are the places we all remember, worlds occupying special places in the collective consciousness of the young: the beaches of a summer holiday; the hedgerow in a field ‘a small child’s zoo and bird-world’; the thrill of snow falling on your own street, the Christmas trombones of the brass band outside the department store.
His recording was made on March 21st at Pier Productions in Brighton, and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.