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Utterly Salt: Rob A Mackenzie


Rob A Mackenzie was born in Glasgow. He studied law and then abandoned the possibility of significant personal wealth by switching to theology. He spent a year in Seoul, eight years in Lanarkshire, five years in Turin, and now lives in Edinburgh where he organises the Poetry at the GRV reading series. His excellent first collection The Opposite of Cabbage was published in March last year. Catch Rob and seven other Salt poets on Monday 23 August at 6.30 pm in the Banshee Labyrinth as part of the Free Fringe.

Plastic CorkThe Opposite of Cabbage

Some things don’t belong together, like ‘plastic’
and ‘cork’; or you, me and a long evening in
after the informal split, with the lamb joint
still bloody in the oven and the stars
smudging the haar outside the window.
Before we know it, the long gap between ‘semi’
andnaked’ is being bridged
and meaningless acts are taking place
beneath the table. Afterwards you switch the TV off –
a documentary on tourism you’d watched
with half an eye. You take your coat,
walk out into the fog, as if ‘something’
and ‘nothing’ were all part of the same thing.

from  The Opposite of Cabbage

Who or what is the greatest influence on your writing?

I dunno! The poets I go back to time and time again are: Wallace Stevens, John Milton, WS Graham, John Berryman, Denis Johnson, and James Schuyler. I expect they have all influenced me in radically different ways.

Why is poetry important?

A great poem expresses something — whether mood, atmosphere, thoughts or emotions — in a unique and astonishing way that can’t be paraphrased or explained. That’s why a great poem is so rare: such a memorable discovery for a reader, and such a high for a writer. But even merely good poems can be enjoyable to read.

Why is Salt important?

Salt has published some brilliant books, simple as that, including books which would have been missed by other publishers. It’s brought some important writers – both prose writers and poets – to public attention, at least that small section of the public which professes an interest in literature.

What is your favourite Salt book and why?

Today, I’m going to choose Home and Variations by Robert Archambeau. Its range, formal skill (in the widest sense of ‘formal’) and ambition ought to be an inspiration to us all.

Any other projects you’d like to tell us about?

Like you, I guess, I’m building up poems for what I hope will become a second collection at some point or other. I also have a chapbook-size narrative poem with a Scottish theme, which still needs a fair bit of work, but I’ve started to pay attention to it again lately.

Link: Rob’s blog, Surroundings.

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