The Institute of Our Love in Disrepair by Sophie Robinson

Sophie Robinson The Institute of our Love in Disrepair

The Institute of Our Love in Disrepair is the product of poet and performer Sophie Robinson’s residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This collection –  her seventh – is published by Bad Press in chapbook form. The poems are interspersed with images of lines stencilled onto wallpaper, windows and toilet tiles. The opening image – ‘I’M SICK OF LOVE’ – printed above a toilet roll immediately summons the text’s proximity to the scatological and its location in ordinary squalor.

Robinson begins the collection with ‘necessary fucking’, which subverts the order of inspiration until sex becomes a perfunctory means to a poetic end:

the more writing
to be done the less time to do the
necessary fucking for poetry

Plaintive, the poet laments her fucklessness:

frigid at the kitchen table no damp
itch to speak of no great love to leap off

...the collection is riven with a queer, sticky lust Elsewhere though, the collection is riven with a queer, sticky lust as Robinson explores the anatomy of heartbreak. Her verse is urgent, rent and seeping; her love and courtship written with pores open wide. Robinson has a knack for brilliant titles – ‘I am the pussy & I take it to heart’ – and panting, sordid erotica. In ‘song’, she writes:

like a pig in a pantry I’m dun glutting
over you

In the rapture of ‘Hunch & Shuffle’:

[…] & I don’t see
your workload lightening beneath the crusted
halo of your charm, cowboy, so knuckle down

Throughout her work, Robinson moves swiftly between the carnal and the animal. In ‘Preshus’ and ‘animal hospital’, her words swell bestial in the reader’s mouth. In ‘Pulchritudinous’, humans are rendered not just animal but meat; there is a palpable sweat to this avant-garde work and the poet is her own vivisectionist.

Robinson also leaves poetic form and shape in a state of disrepair. Much of the collection is spattered with red text, ampersands and words broken across lines until her fractured, fleshy work resembles the verbal equivalent of rogue taxidermy.

The speaker in ‘parlour’ declares ‘I like having art poured into me wide-eyed’, and Robinson succeeds in producing poems that soak up the reader’s attention. Her art has a fluid quality, viscous rather than clear but intriguing nonetheless.

This is a collection that demands to be relished, in gradual readings and revisits.

The Institute of Our Love in Disrepair is out now, available via the Bad Press website

Rating: 4/5

Recommended for: Readers interested in queer and experimental poetry

Other recommended reading: The School Among the Ruins by Adrienne RichMy Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe, Caribou by Amy De’Ath

Eve Lacey