WHY? And other questions, Robin HoughtonThe jacket is white with a photo of a tin can with ring pull seen from the top. The can beneath the circular top is apparently squashed and the spilling out metal is red and silver. Looks like a can of coke. Below the the word WHY? plus question mark in large bold black caps centred. Below this, centred, in much smaller caps AND OTHER QUESTIONS. Below this centred, and much smaller lower case is the author's name.

Live Canon, 2019       £7.00

Small moments in a bigger history

WHY? And other questions is Robin Houghton’s fourth pamphlet, and a winner of Live Canon’s annual competition. As the title suggests, a number of questions pepper the poems. However, the examples of small moments in a bigger history are what interest me most, and in this regard, two poems stand out.

In ‘Captain Hotine calls for retriangulation’, I was fascinated by Hotine’s idea to design stone pillars to retriangulate Great Britain, thereby improving the accuracy of our country’s maps:

Imagine this country as it is: the finest mesh of lines
straight as Roman roads, a reduction of distances, angles.
Ours is a set of bonny concrete pillars, a numbers game

At this particularly sensitive time in our history, we are certainly going through a wholesale retriangulation — politically, socially, economically.

Then in ‘Ladies Hour’, we have what seems like a quiet moment before one of the most famous tragedies in maritime history. The hour is ladies-only swimming in a pool located on the middle deck of the Titanic. Throughout the poem, the innocuous act of swimming has tragic resonance. Sinking into the water, ‘I love the blue fear of this----/ down, down’, and then the final stanza:

I will float, I will glide,
just a push with my foot,
my little foot, and let go

Note there is no full stop, as if the tragedy of the ‘unsinkable’ ship will forever peak our curiosity and challenge our certainty.

No wonder we are asking WHY? And other questions.

Peter Raynard