Robert Selby - Portrait
Robert Selby
Sample of Work
This poem appeared in the Times Literary Supplement
No.5433, May 18 2007

By the side door her van is parked
and bales lie side-by-side in the lane.
Was she here whilst I was showering,
lining yelm with her muff ligger?
Is it a good idea to call up
while she busies with her withy rod?

At elevenses, she comes down
for a builder's tea and a sandwich.
She stands against the ladder
scratching her gnat-bitten back,
stretching knees sore from the biddle,
braces unshouldered round her waist.

Seeing me in the window she waves.
I wave back, pretend to be busy.
Maybe she'll catch her forefinger
with the spragger and need me
to carry out first aid, play doctor.
But she's done this hundreds of times.

Her fulfilment is no empty cliche
about A Woman In A Man's World.
It's something I inhabit, a warm dry
that keeps me snug in the backroom
when I'm at my desk quoting a line
by Mao: Women hold up half the sky.

[Lady Thatcher]


My debut collection, The Coming-Down Time, was published by Shoestring Press in June 2020. A website for the book - including recordings of me reading poems from it and links to where you can buy it - can be found at

The collection has so far been reviewed by Agenda, Ambit, Caught by the River, The High Window, the Los Angeles Review of Books, London Grip, The Manchester Review, PN Review, Review 31, and The Scores.

My debut pamphlet was published as part of Clutag's 'Five Poems' series in 2017. It is available to buy on Clutag's website here.

Poems ‘The End of the Horse Age’, ‘The Divide’ and ‘An Idle Wind’ – from The Coming-Down Time's ‘East of Ipswich’ sequence – were published in PN Review No. 249, Sept-Oct 2019. ‘Orford’, from the same sequence, was published in Areté, issue no.57, Winter 2018, while 'Saturday Morning Football' appeared in Poetry Birmingham, issue no. 4, Summer 2020. Poems 'When That Which is Perfect is Come' and 'The Big Guns' appeared in the 24 March 2018 issue and 22 October 2016 issue respectively of The Spectator.

My poem ‘Whitstable Cathedral’ appeared in The Spectator of 20 April 2019 and '10 Squadron' in the 9 May 2020 issue. Long war poem ‘Upon the Altar Laid’ appeared in Ambit 235, Winter 2019. ‘The Firecrests’, which first appeared in Ambit 216, Spring 2014, was republished in Ambit’s 60th anniversary issue, 237, Summer 2019. Poem ‘Inscriptions’ appeared in Vol.53, No.1-3 of Agenda, published in January 2020.

In the same issue of Agenda appeared ‘XII’ from The Coming-Down Time's ‘Chevening’ sequence, while ‘IV’, ‘V’, ‘VI’ and ‘VII’ went into the issue's online supplement. Poems ‘I’ and ‘III’ were published in Smoke No.69, December 2019, and Poetry Birmingham’s inaugural issue, Autumn 2019, respectively. The second poem from the sequence is forthcoming in the next issue of Smoke.

In November I attended Poetry in Aldeburgh for the first time, introducing a Wild Court showcase and also reading at the ‘Poets on Work & Play’ event.

My review of three new WS Graham books appeared in the 26 April 2019 issue of the TLS and can be read online here. A travel piece I wrote for Caught by the River, on WS Graham and Cornwall, is here.

A review of David Seabrook's All the Devils Are Here is on the same website here. My review of new collections by Jamie McKendrick and Philip Hancock appeared in PN Review 247, May-June 2019. An essay on Martin Booth’s The Knotting Poems is on The High Window here.

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