Robert Powell was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, and now lives in York. He has worked for many years in the fields of journalism, photography, the arts and urbanism, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
He has published three collections of poetry, Harvest of Light (Stone Flower, 2007), All (Valley Press, 2015) and Riverain (Valley Press, 2018) as well as an artist’s book and exhibition, A Small Box of River (2016) in collaboration with artist Jake Attree. He won the 2012 Elmet Prize judged by Kathleen Jamie, was commended in the 2017 National Poetry Competition, and his poems and stories have appeared in Acumen, Dream Catcher, Orbis, The North and The Rialto. In 2017, he wrote and co-produced, with Ben Pugh, The River Speaks, a short film funded by the Canal & River Trust ‘Arts on the Waterways’ programme.
A fourth collection, Lost and Found, was published by Valley Press in November 2021.
Six years in the making, All is the second collection of poetry by Canadian-born, Yorkshire-based writer Robert Powell.
With one of the most precise, committed voices currently at work in the UK, Powell considers the individual moments that make up our lives and histories; whether in nature, in human interaction, or within the worlds of art and spirituality – the fragments that make up our ‘all’.
These poems are both fragile and robust, touching and unsparing. His work is informed by a transatlantic sensibility that combines the best of North American and British
approaches to verse, whilst also paying tribute to the unique art form that is European poetry in translation.
Composed of three mesmerising sequences, All is the best showcase yet for a wonderful and unique literary talent; poetry that is easy to start reading and difficult to stop.
In Riverain, poet Robert Powell takes us on a journey through reality and metaphor, partly inspired by the two rivers that meet in his adopted home city of York: the Ouse and Foss.
Sometimes dreamlike, combining gravity and humour with the personal and the political, this diverse and deeply visual collection moves with a strong narrative flow, taking in love, mortality, family, consumerism, literature and art as it goes.
Subtly moored by its theme, this is a mature, engaging collection from a poet unafraid to chart a course through purposefully ambiguous tributaries.
Robert Powell’s fourth collection is full of wide-ranging surprise in tone, colour, and subject – from times gone by to the times we’re in, from England and Finland to the troubled Irish Border, from deeply personal recollection of children and childhood to a vision of death stalking arrogant political power. These poems mark him out as one of the finest and most consistent poets working today.
‘In Robert Powell’s Lost and Found, the world is often dreamlike and the ordinary consistently made strange, reflecting the often surreal events of contemporary living in a world saturated with technology. Meanwhile the past continually invades the present, in poems that are always arresting, full of simultaneously precise and surprising images. There is a beautiful music to Powell’s writing, each poem a “bright song sung.”’
– Hannah Lowe, author of The Kids and Chan
‘In this latest collection Robert Powell is breaking new ground… Each poem becomes an unrepeatable event which, maybe paradoxically, echoes in the mind like a stone chucked into a deep well. Enjoy these poems and inhabit them, as Powell does.’
– Ian McMillan, host of BBC Radio 3’s The Verb
“Then the President asked: Why won't anyone talk to me about Death?
There was a long silence. I will, I said stepping forward.
The gilded room drained of lackeys, bodyguards, hacks.
Then we sat alone and he leaned close, eyes wide,
like a child listening to a bedtime story.
When we last saw him silhouetted on the dawn sky,
the President was a seething pillar black with flies
from capital to base; and the bitter air all over our land
tasted something like hope
something like expiation
something like grief.”
Be part of our story. Join the Valley Press newsletter.