Scottish poet Robin Robertson wins £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize for 2018

Robert Robinson. Pic: Kevin Moran

The 2018 Goldsmiths Prize was awarded this Wednesday, November 14, to Scottish poet Robin Roberston for his “genre-defying” novel The Long Take.

The story, a voyage of Homeric proportions, is written in verse, prose and the cinematic language of film noir.

Published earlier this year, the narrative marks a shift from the author’s traditional poetry.

Robertson believed the book’s subject matters, namely the cities of post-war America, could only be related in styles as varied as the societies and political forces colliding within them.

The Goldsmiths prize, created by the University in partnership with the New Statesman, awards £10,000 to an author “that breaks the mould, or extends the possibilities of the novel form.”

It was given in its inaugural year to author Eimear McBride for her novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which received a further four prizes and has been described as “a future classic.”

Other winners include Nicola Barker for her novel H(A)PPY and Solar Bones by Mike McCormack.

All winning works are ambitious experiments with narrative, with Solar Bones comprised entirely of one long, unbroken sentence.

Robertson’s novel follows a PTSD-suffering ex-soldier as he makes his way across the changing landscape of post-war America – “a country that had won the war but was destroying itself and its people.”

The resulting first-person narrative is a meticulously researched account of a period that paved the way for the current social and political landscape of the United States.

Speaking to representatives from the Man Booker Prize, for which the book was longlisted, Robertson described “how those years saw the entrenchment of civic corruption and division…the deep paranoia about all ‘outsiders’, including their own black citizens, which has led directly – through McCarthy, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – to the current administration.”

The pervasiveness of these social and political forces is heightened by the author’s use of disjointed verse and cinematic language. With these styles, Robertson illustrates how “the best jazz, the best movies” provided an outlet for the outsider voices shaping the country’s identity.

Robertson was born in Perthshire, in central Scotland, and grew up on its northeastern coast. He has published nine poetry collections and worked as an editor at Penguin Books, Seeker & Warburg and Jonathan Cape.

With his poetry, he aims to “reveal the refreshed world and, through a language thick with sound, connotation and metaphor, make some sense: some new connection between what is seen and felt and what is understood.”

The Long Take is published by Picador and available in bookstores and online.

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