© Image by Bernard Mitchell

Robert Minhinnick

(b. 1952)

"Robert Minhinnick is the leading Welsh poet of his generation." - The Sunday Times

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • Life Sentences, Poetry Wales 1983 - out of print
  • The Dinosaur Park, Poetry Wales 1985 - out of print
  • The Looters, Seren 1989
  • Watching the Fire Eater, Seren 1992
  • A Postcard Home: Tourism in the Mid-'Nineties, Gomer 1993
  • Hey Fatman, Seren 1994
  • Green Agenda: essays on the environment of Wales (editor), Seren 1994
  • Drawing Down the Moon: poems and stories (editor), Seren 1995
  • Badlands, Seren 1996
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet 1999
  • After the Hurricane, Carcanet 2002
  • The Adulterer's Tongue: An Anthology of Welsh Poetry in Translation (editor and translator), Carcanet 2003
  • To Babel and Back, Seren 2005
  • Robert Minhinnick Reading from his poems, The Poetry Archive 2006
  • Sea Holly, Seren 2007
  • King Driftwood, Carcanet 2008
Robert Minhinnick (b. 1952) is a writer and environmentalist; his book Watching the Fire Eater, which combined these interests, was named Welsh Book of the Year in 1993. He edits Poetry Wales, and founded both Friends of the Earth Cymru (Wales) and Sustainable Wales. He has received a John Morgan award for his prose, Gregory and Cholmondeley awards for his poetry, two Arts Council of Wales Literature Prizes, and has won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem twice, for 'Twenty Five Laments for Iraq' and 'The Fox in the National Museum of Wales'.

Both of these are long poems, and Minhinnick has also been drawn to the sequence, such as 'La Otra Orilla' and 'Lives of the Saint', which are represented in this performance with generous selections. They let us see how the form reflects his environmental concerns; each poetic element as one co-existing with others in the habitat of the whole piece, which must become capacious to allow the relations to show fully. His subject matter, certainly, is often drawn from the environment and its (ab)use - his paean to 'St John's Sunflowers', growing in his allotment in Porthcawl, has the eponymous flowers appearing superior to humans, whether they be "Royal Highnesses" who have been awaiting their attention or the scientists responsible for the fact that "In Babylon the sunflowers / are yellow as uranium."

The environment is not romanticised, as shown by the observed encounter of a sparrow and a sparrowhawk in 'Paradise' - in this poem, from a now-clear sky, "one drop of blood / has fallen on my hand". Nor does Minhinnick's focus preclude other interests; political issues are clearly important to him, as the title alone of 'Twenty-Five Laments for Iraq' demonstrates. 'La Otra Orilla' is grounded in the power of words and the powerlessness of the silenced; 'The Yellow Palm' is concerned with violence "on Palestine Street". This poem, unusually, runs to a tighter, song-like metre that Minhinnick ascribes to Auden's influence in his introduction to the poem.

Minhinnick's poems resonate in his compelling reading, his unhurried manner underpinning their precise forces. This recording shows him marrying grace and passion, confirming the Sunday Times' description of him as "the leading Welsh poet of his generation".

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 9 March 2005 at the Audio Workshop, London, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1980 Eric Gregory Award

1990 John Morgan Travel Award

1993 Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award Watching the Fire Eater

1998 Cholmondeley Award

1999 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem) 'Twenty-five Laments for Iraq'

2003 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem) 'The Fox in the National Museum of Wales'

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