Robin Houghton



the poet

Robin Houghton's fourth pamphlet, Why? And other questions was a joint winner of the 2019 Live Canon Pamphlet Competition. She's been published widely in magazines and anthologies, won and been placed in a number of competitions, and was longlisted in the 2020 National Poetry Competition. Robin is the author of A Guide to Getting Published in UK Poetry Magazines, and is currently working towards an MA in Poetry and Poetics at the University of York.

the poems

Tours of Haunted London
#72: Nilsson's Flat

00:00 / 01:48

etched glass over twin sinks & a chrome stand where they say

Mama Cass laid her felted hat   –   getting her groove on baby

after a gig or after dark it was free-fall   –   highballs of ice jiggling

beads on necks   –   boogying on brandy & speed   –   playing zig-zag

here was a black velvet couch   –   the one the cops dusted for dabs

if the front door goes it's Harry   –   back from the Playboy Club

with Cass gone they modernised the kitchen   –   it wasn't a sandwich

that killed her   –   Rolling Stone was wrong!   –   fans still leave flowers

in the lift shaft   –   this room stinks of puke and night sweats

any questions?   –   yes you can use the loo   –   check out the graffiti

at dawn the building shakes with the screams of Moon   – cook me

a steak or fuck off    –    just one last wild man story of many

breaking Cass's tired heart again   –   like a scratched rumour

you can just make out   –   can't live if living is without you

he was thirty-two as well   –   some say a ley line was disturbed

the block's coming down soon   –   feel how cold the plaster is

Harry sold up to Pete & the couch went to auction   –   look look!

here's Cass about to call home   –   cream handset off the hook –


00:00 / 01:48

There are five of us in this taxi and my phone rings.

The couple in front chat with the driver and my husband holds my hand.

My brother is calling me from another country and he's with my mother.

The driver sees my face in the rearview mirror and he knows.

The plane won't wait for me and we are hours from the airport.

The driver is speeding and the couple in front are chatting.

My brother's voice is strange and I don't know what to say to him.

My husband holds my hand and we are hours from the airport.

The couple in front are whispering and the driver is speeding.

My mother had asked when I'd be back but she didn't wait for me.

I will write about this one day. Maybe I'll change the ending.

New Cross Evensong

00:00 / 01:31

we are friends at Surrey Quays      swaying

like seventies buses at home time      your hand

holding just higher than mine      shifting

position with each inch of space won      those

inexplicable smells – moth balls, bubble gum –

all of South London is in the carriage

I recognise the glum unspeaking      feel

some comfort in it      everyone in black

we are now approaching      a blessed silence

eyes down for scrolling      up for sighing

let's take all the time we have      idle-time

all over us      a train gently jilting its payload

as usual      let's rock along the ginger line

hovercraft the old routes      the Roman roads

unpeeled tram tracks      gone the tower blocks

we hardly recognise each other now      deep

south through the gaps in the script      old maps

clocking off      this is where I came to play

I sing this time of day      this reverie

and tomorrow there will be blueprints      sheets

to spread      for some of us      skin to tattoo

Publishing credits

Tours of Haunted London: #72 Nilsson’s Flat: Prole (Issue 32)

Missed: Why? And other questions (Live Canon)

New Cross Evensong: Live Canon 2019 Poetry Prize Anthology

© original authors 2021

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