cardiff cut was originally published in 2000 and this reprint includes a contextual essay by Peter Finch, himself a groundbreaking poet who shifts between what we might still call ‘the mainstream’ and the ‘avant-garde,’ which locates Lloyd Robson’s entry onto the scene as being at ‘the tail end of performance poetry’s rise’. This is fair enough as far as it goes but it does tend to exclude Robson’s interest in ‘the page’ and in books, both in terms of the aesthetic aspect and also via his transference of dialect into print from the spoken variety or vice-versa as the case may be. This is a big subject and one which Finch’s own work explores but it’s not one I intend to get distracted by here.
My own initial exposure to Robson as reader was when he performed with his mentor Chris Torrance at the Art Centre in Plymouth (sometime in the mid-1990’s I think) and it was quite an occasion. I had the good fortune to read with him at Exmouth some years later when I was belatedly trying to develop my own writing and establish some sort of basis for live readings. He’s a terrific live reader but as stated above the relationship between ‘stage and page’ (for want of a better term) is an interesting one and the care he put into producing/co-producing his own books, prior to the later Parthian works, was exemplary.
I’m going to admit at the outset that I’ve never set foot in Cardiff (hopefully this will change) and therefore ‘the vibe’ of the poetry doesn’t resonate in any personal ‘sense of place’ manner but the energy, vitality and sheer verve of the writing carries the reader along with its wonderful punning, streetwise observation and general immersion in an environment which is richly soaked in wonderful materials. There is humour, political satire, scatology in abundance and a general sense of time and place which can still be appreciated from a distance. cardiff cut has been described as a novel as prose poem (a marketing ploy one can’t help thinking) and been compared in content with Ulysses and this is fair comment in the sense that this is Joyce for a wider audience, a popular form of the avant-garde.
You can’t really talk about narrative here, things happen and there are recollections and probably dream sequence sections but there are certainly associations with the beats, with Ginsberg and Kerouac and also with Henry Miller and Burroughs. Robson is a bit of a one-off and his virtual disappearance from the scene for personal reasons has felt like a loss although the timely reappearance of this book may see some kind of a comeback, who knows? Here is an extract from Cardiff Cut to give the reader a flavour and put you in the mood:
cardiff central destiny the thermovitrine keeps me warm &
clean in carriage C; offers view in reflectovision as we reach
the city. dribbling from stat into queues of orange buses into
taxicabs & cityslabs dark, consumer durable & pissy.
‘cold and tired
nice cool drink’
(windowpaint, spielothek amusement arcade,
prince of wales theatre, st. mary street).
straight to the front of queue girls tryna get ina philly, lines of
boys under lion canopy pissing their money over each others’
shoes not a long sleeve between em not a goosebump let loose.
I’m still slightly unsure why Robson’s work didn’t appear in a recent anthology of Welsh innovative poetry – The Edge of Necessary – as he’s a singular voice whose work deserves to be reconsidered and brought into view again. Hopefully this reprint will pave the way.
Steve Spence 18th January 2022