Robyn Marsack


About me I was born and grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, and was educated at Victoria University and then at Oxford University, where I wrote a thesis on the poetry of Louis MacNeice for my D.Phil. I stayed on as a Junior Research Fellow, and did some teaching, and then joined Carcanet Press, as Jill of all trades in the London office: marketing, publicity, editing, production. When my Scottish husband got a job in his home city, we came north and have lived Glasgow ever since. I worked as a freelance publishers’ editor, critic, reviewer and translator (from French), and was fortunate enough to be appointed the Director of the Scottish Poetry Library in 2000. All those skills have turned out to be useful; if I’d also managed to be a heating engineer and a digital whizz, that would have been ideal.

Contact me about organisational matters, projects/partnerships, international or translation projects, speaking engagements, publications

My favourite poetry quote is ‘I struck the board, and cried, No More. / I will abroad.’

My favourite poets are… where to start or stop? I don’t want to offend any living Scottish poets – or New Zealand ones, come to that. So sticking to the safely distant, a random sample in alphabetical order:  Apollinaire, Charles Causley, W S Graham, George Herbert, Lorine Niedecker, Edward Thomas, Marina Tsvetaeva, W B Yeats…

When not at work you’ll find me reading in a sunny spot; going to the cinema with my film-crazy family; going to a classical concert (not as often as I’d like); writing letters/postcards (not writing poems); wandering round an art gallery; in the studio at Crear with a group of poets (it’s work but it feels like play); having a delicious lunch with friends/family (but not cooking it).

My favourite biscuit is millionaire’s shortbread… My favourite cake is a madeleine

Me as a form of poem would be a Petrarchan sonnet. It’s the problem/resolution structure that seems appropriate, or perhaps the discipline of the form but the change of mind halfway through… And it’s short but solid.

One of the poems I carry is… I don’t know nearly enough poems off by heart – I need the SPL’s ‘lost for words’ service to recover all those half-remembered poems floating around in my head. When I was a teenager trying to write poetry, an Australian editor suggested that I read Thomas Hardy – very far from anything I knew or was trying to write – and pointed me to his poem ‘The Voice’. I still love it for its awkwardness and longing.