Ruby Robinson

How did poetry first appear in your life?
Through music. I remember being about 3 or 4 and listening to the radio and songs like The Bangles’ ‘Eternal Flame’ on the radio. Apparently, I used to sing songs by Luther Vandross first thing in the morning after letting myself out of the maisonette to visit our neighbour, Pat, for breakfast. So, having listened to music and learned lyrics by heart from a very early age, being introduced to formal poetry at school seemed like a visceral continuation of this experience.

Someone says ‘you should write a poem about that’. What do you do / say?
I’m generally terrible at writing things to order. However, I have asked my mother for ideas for poems. For example, in my collection there’s a poem called ‘Locked Doors’ from an idea she suggested. [As an aside, I’m contrary to most remarks beginning “you should…”]

What do you think poetry’s relationship to politics should be?
What do you think poetry’s relationship to politics should be?

Describe your ideal poetry festival line-up.
Hmm…maybe Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Eminem and Dr Dre, John Donne, Claudia Rankine, Denise Riley. Just for starters.

Do you have any bad poetry habits?
I buy lots of books and then don’t read them properly.

What is your favoured form of writing avoidance?
I was recently described as a ‘binge writer’… because I tend to write in short spells with large spaces between. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff to be doing in life other than writing the next poem, so my favoured form of writing avoidance would be just getting on with things, I guess.

How do you feel about making a living from poetry? Do you do it? Do you avoid it? Do you want to do it?
If we’re to hear a diverse range of voices, there must be proper opportunities for people to make money from writing. I like balancing my regular job with writing and performing. But for me it’s not a sustainable solution – not quite enough income and not quite enough focus on one thing or the other. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been awarded funding to do a PhD starting later this year…

Tell us something about putting together your most recent collection, or what you’re working on now
My first collection just sort of came together after many years of accumulating poems. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into new projects and will be starting a PhD in poetry this autumn which will give me the space to try out new ideas.

Ruby Robinson reads with Katharine Towers and William Letford at Upper Chapel, Norfolk St, Sheffield, S1 2JD on Thursday 25 May. Click here for further details. Visit Ruby Robinson’s website: