Roger Robinson (poet)

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Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson in Leeds.jpg
Robinson at Out of Many Lit Fest in Leeds
Hackney, London, England
  • Writer
  • musician
  • performer

Roger Robinson is a British writer, musician and performer who lives between England and Trinidad.[1] His book A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press) won the prestigious T. S. Eliot Prize 2019, announced in London in January 2020.[2][3] He is the second writer of Caribbean heritage to win the prize, the highest value award in UK poetry, after Derek Walcott who won the 2010 prize.[4] Robinson's victory was also seen as an important one for small presses. A Portable Paradise was only the second book of poetry to win the Ondaatje Prize in May 2020.[5][6]


Robinson was born in Hackney, London, to Trinidadian parents, and at the age of four went with them to live in Trinidad, returning to England when he was 19[7] in the 1980s,[8] He initially lived with his grandmother in Ilford, Essex, before moving to Brixton, an area of south London that he found more congenial.[9] He describes himself as "a British resident with a Trini sensibility".[10] He was chosen by arts organisation Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced black-British writing over the past 50 years.[1][10]

A spoken-word performer in London in the early 1990s, he later performed poetry with bands including Techno Animal, Flytronix, The Bug, Attica Blues and Speeka.[11] Robinson is the lead vocalist for musical crossover project King Midas Sound, whose critically acclaimed debut album Waiting for You was released on Hyperdub Records,[12][13] becoming number 10 in the top 50 releases of 2009 in Wire Magazine.[14] His solo album of spoken folk, illclectica,[1] was named by Mojo Magazine as "number eight in the top 10 electronic albums for that year.[15] In 2015 he released Dis Side Ah Town, which has been described as "an album that lyrically recalls the most incisive and suggestive lyricists in dub and roots reggae".[16]

Robinson's poetry on the page has won a wide range of plaudits. In 1999 he was one of 30 poets chosen for the influential New Generation Poets collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London.[1] Robinson has toured extensively with the British Council.[8] His one-man shows The Shadow Boxer, Letter from My Father's Brother and Prohibition all premiered at the British Festival of Visual Theatre at Battersea Arts Centre.[1] Robinson's commissions have included work for the Theatre Royal Stratford East, the National Trust, London Open House, the National Portrait Gallery, LIFT and the Tate. His workshops have been a part of a shortlist for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries and were also a part of the Barbican Centre's Can I Have A Word.[17] In 2010 his poetry collection Suckle won the People's Book Prize.[12][8] His 2013 collection The Butterfly Hotel was one of three poetry titles shortlisted for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.[18]

Robinson's contribution to the poetry community, as well as his own work, has been notable. As well as performing, he has led workshops and lectured on poetry and performance.[1] Until 2000 Robinson was programme co-ordinator of the performance poetry organisation Apples and Snakes. He is a co-founder of London poetry collective Malika's Poetry Kitchen with fellow poets Malika Booker and Jacob-Sam La Rose. Currently run by Jill Abram, the group has fostered some of the UK's most successful poets and is of note for the diversity of its community.[19]


  • A Portable Paradise (poetry), Peepal Tree Press, 2019. ISBN 978-1845234331.[3]
  • The Butterfly Hotel (poetry), Peepal Tree Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1845232191
  • Suckle (poetry), Waterways Series, 2009. ISBN 978-190-523-3212
  • Suitcase (poetry), Flipped Eye Publishing, 2005. ISBN 978-0954224776
  • Adventures in 3D (short fiction), Lubin & Kleyner, 2001.


  • Dog Heart City (Jahtari, 2017)
  • Dis Side Ah Town (Jahtari, 2015)
  • illclectica (Altered Vibes, 2004)

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Roger Robinson" page at Literature, British Council.
  2. ^ a b Cain, Sian (13 January 2020). "British-Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson wins TS Eliot prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b Flood, Alison (17 October 1919), "TS Eliot prize unveils shortlist of 'fearless poets'", The Guardian.
  4. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (24 January 2011). "TS Eliot prize goes to Derek Walcott for 'moving and technically flawless' work". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  5. ^ "RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 Winner Announcement". The Royal Society of Literature.
  6. ^ a b Flood, Alison (4 May 2020). "Roger Robinson's poems of Trinidad and London win Ondaatje prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Roger Robinson – biography", Meet the Poets, Barbican.
  8. ^ a b c "Suckle poems by Roger Robinson". 21 November 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2022.
  9. ^ Armitstead, Claire (16 January 2020), "TS Eliot prize-winner Roger Robinson: ‘I want these poems to help people to practise empathy’", The Guardian.
  10. ^ a b Davina Morris, "Trini poet Roger Robinson", Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 17 August 2009.
  11. ^ "Roger Robinson", Westbury Music.
  12. ^ a b "Roger Robinson", Book Slam.
  13. ^ "King Midas Sound", Festival Searcher.
  14. ^ "About", Roger Robinson.
  15. ^ Poets and Tutors, The Complete Works II.
  16. ^ Neil Kulkarni, "Reading The Riot Act: Roger Robinson Interviewed", The Quietus, 13 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Roger Robinson's workshop", The Guardian, 24 November 2009.
  18. ^ "Ten writers vie for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize", Bocas Lit Fest, 25 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Malika's Poetry Kitchen". Malika's Poetry Kitchen. Retrieved 14 January 2020.

External links[edit]