Does it make sense to talk of ‘established’ poets nowadays? If it does (and that’s a more than averagely big if), then Robert Crawford fits the bill: based professionally – and professorially – in a Scotland whose political and cultural life he cherishes and celebrates, Crawford can draw on six volumes of verse for this timely Selected Poems, and even that prolific output is more than matched by his productivity in other genres, which has issued (so far) in nine critical works and five anthologies. When Crawford tells us, at the end of the first poem in the book, ‘I went to work at school’, he clearly means it; this Selected Poems knows a lot about a lot of things, not least hard work.
Like a great deal of contemporary British poetry, Crawford’s writing is low-key, formally understated, and given to ironic registers. And, again like much poetry on the larger publishers’ lists, this can sometimes work very well. Here, for example, are the closing lines of ‘Bereavement’:
Children dismounted from tonight’s last train