Slate blue cover framing a painting of a girl looking at a colourful paintingRevelation, Hilary Robinson

4Word, 2021         £5.99

Pain of infidelity

As Hilary Robinson explains in her foreword, the central theme of Revelation rests on the experience of a husband’s betrayal. Seen from the woman’s point of view, the poems articulate the raw emotions experienced in the aftermath of a husband’s confession. Uncensored testimony makes the writing authentic and compelling. Its universal voice will surely resonate with many readers.

The poem ‘April 1997’ draws me into the theme. Rage and despair are balanced by a dream stanza section. In it the narrator imagines a happier life elsewhere where she has control and self-respect. Details are tenderly expressed but the fantasy evaporates in the rain as

head down, I watched my feet
bring me home.

In couplet form, the eponymous poem ‘Revelation’ explores the wife’s sense of the sacred nature of seven years of marriage using biblical phrasing e.g. ‘and I beheld’. This is accompanied by the repetition of the husband’s ‘shame’ and ‘all the places’ where the couple had been as he betrayed her. The lines culminate in a Christian forgiveness.

‘Redrawing the Marriage Map’ and ‘the bed’s a placid sea tonight’ act as companion pieces to each other. The former’s fragmented lines mirror the shifting nature of the marriage and are continued in the latter. In this, the poet tells us:

I am sea anemone
wafting with the current
delicious in my coloured fronds

Towards the end, in ‘Finding my Voice’, the woman’s voice strengthens from the image of a bird to a series of more powerful beasts:

I will be cheetah, jackal, lynx,
hyena, panther, lioness…
I will be wolf.

Revelation deploys an interesting use of white space within the poems to mirror disrupted experience. Bookended by the security of childhood snapshots, and a parent’s final days, the prospect of independence grows with the sequence. Out of betrayal comes strength. This is a mature, sensitive, and brave collection.

Maggie Mackay