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From The Reader Bookshelf… A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 2nd December 2021

As part of our ongoing work around The Reader Bookshelf, we've asked staff to share their thoughts about some of the inspirational texts in the collection.

This week, The Reader's Communications Coordinator, Francesca Dolan, tells us what Roger Robinson's A Portable Paradise means to her.



Words by Francesca Dolan

I love poetry more than anything. I love that it can be whimsical and personal; sometimes taking up so little space but saying so much. My enjoyment comes from deciphering the possibilities of its meaning and thinking about how I can relate it to my own life. Maybe that’s the actress in me.

I’ve always been completely drawn to life’s really human moments. I love a long bus ride and the hope of getting stuck in traffic in a busy city, simply so I can turn up Richard Hawley (Taylor Swift) and look out of the window and witness life being lived… two old people hand in hand crossing a road or a kid lying in protest in the middle of the street. The poetry of life.

Roger Robinson’s work made me feel like I was on that bus ride, just peering out of the window, a bystander to his world. Yet, he goes much deeper than decade old love or a sulking child. His work truly moved me. Despite the fact that I know I will never truly understand certain issues and events, Grenfell and racism as examples, I was right there with him… taking it in, a witness to his anguish.

I encourage everyone to read it. Not all in one go… maybe a poem a day? Just, go slowly. Let the words make you think. Let the imagery encourage you to keep searching for further knowledge on these difficult, but incredibly important, subjects.

Here is the one that has stayed with me the longest…


This twelve-year-old girl, doing an interview on the TV about her father being missing after the fire, is becoming her father. She is already head and shoulders above her mother who stands behind her, red-rimmed eyes darting with worry. Note when the interviewer asks how she feels, the daughter starts becoming her father. She concentrates her answer on the actions she must take, the things that are directly within her control. Days later she will fill in the forms necessary for them to get temporary housing. She will wake up her mother, weak with grief, and bring to her bed fattet hummus and makdous with olive oil and za-tar. She will make her mother have a shower in the morning and comb her mother’s hair and lay her clothes on the bed. She has taken to reading several newspapers while drinking strong cardamom-flavoured coffee while Umm Kulthum is singing about her heart on the radio.



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