An Interview with John D Robinson

Gwil James Thomas


Considering that you’re here it seems more than likely that you’ve already heard of the inimitable British poet John D Robinson – if not, then now would also be the perfect time to start. In 2018 he’s had four chapbooks published Hitting Home’ (Iron Lung Press) ‘The Pursuit of Shadows’ (Analog Submission Press) ‘Echoes of Diablo’ (Concrete Meat Press) and the forthcoming ‘Too Many Drinks Ago’ (Paper & Ink)! His work is collectible and usually limited and for that reason it tends to sell swiftly and it’s understandable why.

One of the biggest things that strike me about his poems is the rhythm – no word seems out of place. For that reason he’s a master of vignette poems – painting scenes of poetry with laugher, tragedy, revelry and hope. And like all great poets, once he gets you with his hook – the bastard will have you latched on for life. Robinson’s chapbooks are the sort of material that you want to have in your arsenal the next time you meet someone that says ‘I read poetry back in school and found it boring,’ before they get back to checking their phone. That said, if I’d have been aware of poets like Robinson when I was in school, then my interest in poetry would have stared much sooner. Above all of this though, Robinson comes across as a humble and good soul. Someone who genuinely loves and understands his craft and would be doing it whether the world, or nobody was taking note of him. In that sense he is a true artist and encapsulates everything that made me want to write in the first place.

GJT: I’ll start off with a simple question – do you write to any music? If so, what’s your preference?

JDR: Music has always been a life-long importance to me: I gave up on popular music about two and a half decades ago, occasionally, every six months or so, I will dig out some Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones and listen for 10 minutes and then switch it off, reminding myself why I stopped listening: I listen to nothing but classical music these days: Sibelius, Part, Vaughn Williams: Butterworth: JS Bach: Beethoven: Mozart: Vivaldi: Mahler: Handel: Vivaldi: etc: and scribble as I listen.

GJT: I’ve noticed both cats and dogs being given an affectionate nod in your work. Deep down I think that everyone prefers one, over the other. So, I’m sure that the question on everyone’s lips is – are you a cat man, or a dog man? 

JDR: Cats : I am obsessed with cats, I have been around cats all my life and I love their company, their independence, their mystery: I am with the ancient Egyptians on this one: There is a wonderful film ‘Excavating Taylor Mead’Poet/painter/actor, a Warhol superstar who spent a great deal of his later years wandering around New York feeding the stray cats (You Tube). I have two cats at present though at times I have had four or five, but I think you can’t have too many.

GJT: If you had to name one novel, or poetry collection that had inspired you to pick up the pen, what would it be?

JDR: I could give many answers here: but I think I would have to mention  Steve Richmond: ‘Earth Rose’: an extraordinary collection and an exceptional poet who is quite often overlooked in the shadow of Bukowski: a poet that truly opened my eyes, the brutality and starkness, the beauty and lyrical of this life: he lived a truly eventful life: a poets life: buy his ‘Gagaku’poetry collection published by Dharma Books: But to hammer it down I think it would be Doug Draime: ‘More Than The Alley’: I never tire of reading his wonderful work and have many of his books: he was a poet who lived as a poet and never backed down on his journey: whose work was diverse but always captivating and very often, funny but always with a sting in it’s tail: the collection, selected poems ‘Farrago Soup’ should be on every poet’s shelf:

GJT: Arguably, drinking whilst writing can lower the inhibitions – but the line between buzzed and blotto can naturally get blurred and writing blotto is impossible. Do you typically approach the blank document with a full glass? And if so what’s your favourite bottle?

JDR: I drink whilst I write everyday: my favourite fuel is ‘Casillero del Diablo’ ‘Wine from the Devils cellar’Chardonnay: one would not work without the other: poetry and wine are just two of my demons and it took me a long time to become friends with both, a long and varied journey we’ve undertaken: friendship, love and lives have been lost along the way, but like Ferlinghetti said ‘I’m on an even keel these days’.

GJT: As I mentioned before I love the vignette style of your poems – but it made me think about how good a novel could be in this format, if not a hard fucking task too. Would you ever consider writing a novel?

JDR: I have no plans to do so at the moment: I have written short stories, but have often found prose to be challenging and very time consuming: but I wouldn’t want to rule the idea out.

GJT: I think it’s essential for writers to have hobbies, interests, or some other place to go for ‘downtime’ away from writing. Is this what painting is for you? 

JDR: Painting is something that I enjoy: particularly painting non figurative works: I like to work in acrylics on canvas or wood, I also enjoy making collages which I am doing at present, again I usually work to classical music whilst my cats walk over my materials: I love the work of Basquiat and attended the large exhibition ‘Boom For Real’ in London earlier this year, a fantastic show: Janne Karlsson and Marcel Herms are two contemporary artists whose work that I love and admire.

GJT: Would you ever consider holding an exhibition for your paintings?

JDR: I have exhibited my paintings in the past on several occasions: Coffee houses: bars: small galleries and enjoyed the experience and would be interested in doing so again if the opportunity arose.

GJT: In relation to those last two questions – I’m reluctant to call writing a hobby. I think that there’s this point when going down the road of being a writer, that you realise that it’s become more than a hobby. It’s not something that you can pick up and put down as easily as a hobby. To an outsider that probably sounds pretentious, or delusional and it’s hard to explain to people that don’t write – but if you look at the things it can cost you down the line it can be more like an addiction, or obsession. Do you think that there’s a point where writing becomes more of a way of life? Or really is it more a case that unless you can regularly pay the bills with your writing, then you’re just another full time hobbyist?

JDR: I think that you are right: for me writing poetry is an addiction and an obsession: I try and write everyday: It is something that makes my life richer in many ways: As a teenager I knew that poetry was going to be a life long love and that its passion would not fade: if I don’t write for a few days I get miserable within: but I wait for the return of the muse and she comes in many guises : reading the work of a fellow poet: some music: a conversation with a stranger on a bus: a distant memory: there is always a poem to write: Like Rauschenberg said ‘just walking around the block you will find art’ I don’t figure writing poetry to be a hobby but it’s what I do and I don’t know what else to do and there is nothing else that I would want to be doing.

GJT: What’s next for John D Robinson?

JDR: I will continue writing and sending out to small press publications and online literary journals: 450 poems in over 80 publications have appeared so far.I thoroughly enjoy creating books, formatting and editing, reading the work of quality poets and seeing this brought to life in print is a joyous thing.

I have planned split chapbooks with: Gwil James Thomas, Janne Karlsson, Joseph Ridgwell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan and Catfish McDaris. Holy&intoxicated Publications will continue to publish quality chapbooks: solo collections in the future will feature the poets – John Grochalski, Ally Malinenko, Adrian Manning: Ryan Quinn Flanagan and no doubt this will grow. The Holy&intoxicated Publications Poetry Card series will continue: Series 7 is currently at the printers – Ryan Quinn Flanagan: Dennis Gulling: Scot Young: Catfish McDaris and Arthur J Willhelm are the contributors. I select and approach the poets for a contribution to this series. Series 8 will have special guest editor, Adrian Manning taking over the controls.

This poetry life is a life I love, it has its downs just like everything else in life but making contact and talking to quality poets all over the globe is simply an honour and always inspiring.

As poet Gary Aposhian stated: ‘Buy my Books!’

And thank you Gwil for all your time and hard work.


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