A Painted Field by Robin Robertson

A Painted Field

Picador, 1997
Harcourt Brace, New York, 1997
Guanda, Milan, 2002 (as Camera Obscura)

Winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize and the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award.


‘[A] superb debut…darkly chiselled poems haunted by mortality and the fragility of life’s pleasures.’
Kazuo Ishiguro, Sunday Times Books of the Year

‘Robin Robertson is instantly recognisable as a poet of vivid authority, commanding a surprised, accurate language of his own. The evocative truth and the crystalline ring of his words, line by line, make a kind of hope in themselves. This is a first book of extraordinary gifts and assured maturity.’
W.S. Merwin

‘The best new poet in Britain is Robin Robertson. His first collection, A Painted Field, is both heartbreaking and harrowing, and I liked it very much. Poems with good bones here, and complicated blood.’
Andrew O’Hagan, Independent on Sunday Books of the Year

‘Robin Robertson’s poems have a consummate finish; yet their choice balance and form intensify the disturbance they create. They renovate the reader’s sense of the relationship between the personal and the historical; they provide exemplary accounts of dynastic feelings, events and moments that have a deep and wide reverberation in the past and in the present. Poems such as “The Flaying of Marsyas” and the cycle of poems “Camera Obscura” are astonishing displays of the depth and range of a new voice that will, with this volume, become well-known and sought after.’
Seamus Deane

A Painted Field is stunning; I do feel strongly that Robin Robertson’s poems are some of the best being written these days. I am quite clear what it is I admire so much about them: their remarkable powers of description and evocation and metaphoric aptness. I can’t think of any book in which you feel more confident that every word is carefully weighed and in its right place. This precise lucidity means that the descriptions of suffering are made in a language that is unforcedly adequate to it. I hope the book gets the rapturous reception I think it merits; it is a first collection of extraordinary quality.’
Bernard O’Donoghue

‘The genius of this Scots poet is for finding the sensually charged moment – in a raked northern seascape, in a sexual or gustatory encounter – and depicting it in language that is simultaneously spare and ample, and reminiscent of early Heaney or Hughes… The tension here is between an awareness of the moral conundrum that politics and violence present to art, and a loyalty to depicting the more local worlds of nature and individual experience.’
New Yorker