I have published four poetry collections: Travelling to the Fish Orchards, On the Beach with Chet Baker and Writing King Kong, all from Seren. A new collection, The Book of Snow, came out in autumn 2016 from Two Rivers Press.
I am also a poet who enjoys reading his work to an audience, having worked in theatre, TV and radio as actor, reader and animator. Audiences have appreciated my genuine sense of engagement: Robert Seatter is a witty, engaging and dynamic reader of his own work; his readings are a sheer pleasure – audiences delight in his charm and warmth. Book him! Catherine Smith, Lewes Poetry
In addition, I am a wide-ranging Arts professional. I regularly chair literary debates and discussions; I have been a lucid adjudicator of countless poetry competitions; and am an experienced arts trustee. I am currently Chair of The Poetry Trust which runs the acclaimed Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.
Finally, I have worked in broadcasting, at the BBC, for over twenty years, in a range of roles, both in front of and behind the microphone/camera. At present, I am Head of BBC History.
I have won many awards and nominations for my poetry including National Poetry Competition, London Poetry, Forward Poetry Prize and Housman Poetry Prize. Critical response has been very positive:
Fresh, uncluttered poetry…where a kind of luminous immanence is possible.
poet, performer, broadcaster
and arts professional
THE BOOK OF SNOW
On 10 November 2016, I launched my new collection, The Book of Snow, in central London. This book combines poem, artwork and design in a unique and compelling combination.
Follow up readings happened at Tunbridge Wells (Kent & Sussex Poetry Society) and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, South Oxfordshire (St James church and Telephone Box installation).
Readings in 2017 include:
Poetry collections this focused and intricately assembled are rare – The Book of Snow reveals Seatter at his most lyrical and elegiac while also at his most honest and sharp.
This extraordinary book takes on the structure of crystals, in poems of love and evanescence, radiant light and wordfall into silence.
The White Bed
The ice crystal
at 32 degrees Fahrenheit
is long and needle-like –
or so you tell me
with your scientific insight –
while at 5 degrees
it is flat as a plate.
Snowflake arms as they fall
through air drop off,
go in different directions,
but are held,
in spite of this, in continuing
symmetry. So here, now,
falling by day, by night
there are millions of symmetries.
While here, now, we cannot
sustain even one:
shrink our arms and legs
not to touch; detach,
come apart. White bed,
white snow. All that effortful
attempt at pattern,
now our long
Paper Cut 3
She gets through five blades a day –
sharpness is crucial.
It’s the only way of seeing:
there must be no ragged edge,
no half-cut, no tentative in then out
so the paper loses its line and stays
merely flat, undefined.
The best moment of cutting is
when a new blade meets new paper.
It happens with a breath,
held then released, then she looks up
out of her studio window:
green grass, a blackbird.
So there is then a world
that isn’t white?
But the knife is demanding –
it rubs against her callused finger –
it is waiting.
The White Bed from The Book of Snow
52 Words for Snow
each could be articulated,
as if each could be learnt,
repeating on the tongue –
fifty-two times over –
then labelled and kept
in a frozen book, or sliced
in half and studied close
to the ball of the eye,
until the eye felt each
pattern’s freezing for itself.
Or as if each could be colour-
coded so there would be
fifty-two different colours
for snow, imagine. Or
scented, so there would be
fifty-two different perfumes, separate
then mingled in the air.
Or maybe handled, blindfold,
so the words had texture
which your finger tips
would decipher tentatively, one
by one. Then later
each would be dreamt,
fifty-two different dreams,
each like a separate
room which you opened
with a different key,
walked into its silence,
then into the next,
the next after that,
realising that every room
was different, every room
the same. Then you’d wake
to the blankness of white
and all the words falling.
Read some poems
I have read my work extensively in festivals, on TV and radio, and at reading groups, and I enjoy the whole process of presenting and illuminating my poetry. Here are some comments from recent literature events:
Robert Seatter ‘delivers’ as a poet on at least two counts: he writes excellent poems and audiences love the warmth and assurance of his live readings. His stylish exploration of love and loss were a highlight of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and we were quick to invite him back to Suffolk for our Poetry@The Cut reading series. On page or stage, he’s always a pleasure.
Naomi Jaffa, Artistic Director, Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
The performance lives up to the poems – elegant, witty, polished, engaging, accessible, and always delivered with panache, precision and warmth. Robert Seatter’s poems have great integrity and depth, and he is a wonderful reader of his work – every inch the professional. A class act.
Clare Best, Chiddingly Festival, Sussex
Video of The Cello & the Nightingale
Click here for News link
Launch reading for The Book of Snow
He has reached his mature style, and has the assurance to trust his own instincts as to what works best in fitting these poems together.
His poems can remind us how complex a business it is to recall and rebuild a world, and how the act of doing so comes bundled with its own sense of loss.
A confident and accessible voice.
Packs a considerable emotional punch.
Read some poems
Back then we all had one –
in the 60s, perhaps even as late as the 70s.
My parents used it as an excuse
for people they didn’t want to phone.
We got the party line, they’d say,
couldn’t get through.
It was someone else’s voice
coming down your black receiver,
or else, moe strange and interesting,
it was someone else’s conversation,
all their intimate to and fro, that you walked right into
without a word of introduction.
And there you’d sit quiet, an accidental spy,
eavesdropping into another life
till one of them said, slightly quizzical, then slightly cross,
I think there’s someone on the party line.
But by then it was too late –
you had slipped imperceptibly into their lives.
For a minute you were there, in a different house;
your shoes felt different, even the tie
around your neck, the weight on your toes,
and someone unknown was telling you everything,
tipping their story into your ear,
and you were nodding back to them there in the dark.
It was what you’d always wanted,
just for a moment: a different identity slid into
like a new shiny skin, with a different pair
of ears and eyes. Even a different street
to walk out into the night –
where you’d wonder what advice,
what consolation, what last intimate word
you might offer up to them
if ever they rang you again.
After The City by CPCavafy
Why – when you have
your two-bedroom flat,
a view over London
(from the kitchen window),
your black and white artworks
crated over from Brazil
up on your living room wall,
your grandfather’s watch,
fluency in three,
no four foreign languages
(all those books, all those
‘listen & repeat’ audio CDs),
a poem of mine in a frame,
my three telephone numbers in your mobile
for constant availability,
my shirtless body (and all the rest)
– do you stand up suddenly
in the middle of a non-birthday,
(no candles, no cake, I promise,
not after the last time)
and look through
your kitchen window,
not at the view over London
to the darkening pine trees
at the end of the basement flat garden,
and say I’ll get rid of this flat
and go to another city?
And I look out
past your shoulder
and see quite clearly
all your rooms to come
in all your changing flats,
city after city after city,
in all your unchanging darkness.
I get good at going,
sizing up a town, a city, a village,
by the quick scan of a map,
sniffing out bargain beds, menus del dia,
playing the poor traveller
in spite of my shiny new suitcase on wheels,
my pocketful of dollars,
and leaving, leaving.
And yes, I cream off memories –
cock crow, blue light, an island in a lake,
bundles wrapped in striped cloth,
saints with real hair,
monkey call, mud,
the lidless eye of a crocodile.
But I get so good at going –
I am gone before I’m there,
have written the anticipation, have traded
the farewell. Before the goodbye
is even on your lips –
faces, doorways, streets, cathedrals,
factories, mines, your piece of sky,
I am in another country,
I am early for tomorrow. Please wake me
if I arrive.
Read some poems
I come from
I come from a suburb waiting forever
for the train to London,
from smashed windows, graffiti,
fog on the platform,
skinheads and fights
if you look the wrong way
I come from clean handkerchiefs,
dinner money, God,
please and sorry one hundred times over,
draft excluders and double glazing
I come from Chambers Etymological Dictionary,
maths tables, 11+, Look & Learn,
an almost complete set of Observer I-spy books,
from a family of teachers and yet more teachers,
an Orkney grandfather, a Shropshire grandma,
from no accent at all
I come from kindness
I come from doh-reh-me: The Sound of Music,
recorders, clarinets, a pianola
all the way from Scotland
I come from sin and masturbation,
rats behind the garage,
and a man who followed me
back from the library
I come from silence
I come from a garden
from my father mowing the lawn into the dark,
from fences, walls, gates and hedges,
Cuthberts seed packets, The Perfect Small Garden,
from the sound through the night
of trains, trains, trains.
Message from elvis
Elvis Costello is singing
Almost Blue on the kitchen radio.
And outside in the garden, rain.
My radio speakers keep cutting out –
perhaps it’s the weather. Almost –
Almost he sings. Then Blue –
Blue. A fine white line between the words.
This is what I want – a room full of you, blue.
This is what I have – a crackle of speakers, rain,
the space to you or the you I thought you’d be.
I hear all the words of the song,
but I only hear Almost.
I hear only Almost,
I hear all the words of the song.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
A story has no beginning or end – Graham Greene
Behind the small ship, the man in a cape
with a broken lantern, the zig zags of light that catch at
my eye, make my nose grow wet.
But I begin here –
his footsteps moving, his smell among the leaves,
the fear in his blood that makes mine hot. He is lost,
lost again, shouting into the wind and soaked by rain.
His words are all endings, all Hail Marys and Amens.
But I begin now –
though I too had a before: a long brown story
that started in a cave, that pawed the earth and swallowed bees.
In front, is a baby bawling into the night, a glitter of gold
and a parchment scroll. I could eat the baby.
I could begin there –
but the man’s a better feast. I watch him through the trees,
rub my fur against the dark. This is where he ends.
Tomorrow, he’s a pile of bones in the sun. tomorrow that baby
will be sixteen years old. I could begin then –
Looking back, it seemed to happen
underwater. The shoes were smaller,
the hands quite white, the voices came back
in bubbles like raspberries: I do, I do.
Did I? Did we somewhere make those lists,
pick a tie to match your bouquet (eau de nil
not jade; we go through every shade of green),
smile for a mantlepiece across swimming rooms,
buy curtain rings and tin openers,
make love in front of a silent tv (our bodies
striped in watery light) and realise at night
that the breathing goes on forever –
each exhalation like a wave? Water
on our chests in a grey and green column
as far as we could see. So we swam
to the surface, clambered onto the mantlepiece,
then watched the furniture float slowly away.
No rain for two weeks
and the pumpkins grow rampant in the July sun:
shiny, orange footballs lolling on the earth.
The garden shrinks.
The Italian lodger sleeping in the spare room
looks dubious at their growing,
walks around the house practising the word –
He forgets it the next day, goes out
to fuck boys in the baked Oxford meadows,
observes the pumpkin progress
with a face like guilt, eyebrows in a line.
He phones home to his papa and fidanzata:
I love it here: the colleges, the history...
yes, I miss you too. But my English
is improving – I will stay longer.
Later in the moonlight, he lies wide awake,
feels every globe swelling:
a sheen of expectation, root like a claw.
The bedroom walls shrink.
He leaves me tearfully – to go back to Milan,
his suitcases full of English Breakfast Tea;
insists on one last visit to look at the monster.
Pumpkin, pumpkin, he mouths in silence.
In another week, I cut the stalks,
lay the heavy, orange flesh on the draining board.
The lawn lies reclaimed,
tame as a living room carpet.
My Father’s Wedding Gloves
Have them he said, looking foreignly at their long slim fingers,
their secret, dove-grey colour, their feel of age and youth,
when I found them one day under the stairs
where we kept the hoover, old scarves and overcoats.
Fine, leather gloves, soft, neatly sewn – from another time.
Have them, it’s cold in Milan in the winter.
So back I went at twenty-two to teach my garrulous Italians,
carried them with me, hands from the old world.
I wore them with an Al Capone trilby against the rain,
a long blue trench coat and my student moustache;
observed myself in department store windows
while waiting for buses, stared out the distortions
upon the glass – interrogating my own imaginings.
Which bit of me worked? Which accessory reflected
the whole? The trilby hat shrank its felt in the rain,
then lost its ribbon. The trench coat flapped against my legs, turned dank and dirty. The gloves were the gloves,
a part of me and not. I tried to imagine his fingers fitting them
or him saying the wedding words or lying gloveless
of everything at night – he who wriggled under a towel
on the beach every summer. But the truth of it was
I could never imagine him. Me with my leaping mind,
my messy emotions, who year after year had watched him awkward across the tea table as he manoeuvred words
like slow cups and saucers, as he cleared his throat against
the silence – trying to reach me. Alone in Milan
I touched the gloves’ grey lines, flexed my fingers
inside them. Then I lost them on a train some years later
and wrote to tell him, saying I was sorry. The letter
I keep writing now his hands do not move and he sits silent
in the sun. I scan the album’s wedding photos
for the gloves we both once wore, reach for his fingers
inside their darkness, keep turning the pages.
Read some poems
I have been a Trustee of The Poetry Trust, which runs the acclaimed Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, from 2009 to 2016. In 2015,
I took over as its Chairman.
Chairing of arts events
I have chaired high-level arts discussion at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, featuring both UK and international writers. Platform themes have ranged from Poetry and conflict, Poetry and freedom to Poetry and beauty, Poetry and disobedience.
I also regularly chair and introduce events for Poet in the City, including latterly: War Music: the poetry of Homer past, present and future; Poetry and Conflict: featuring Mark Doty and Naomi Shehab Nye.
From 2010 to 2015, I was Chair of Judges for the Fenton 1st Collection Prize, run by The Poetry Trust, selecting the best first collection each year from over 80 annual poetry titles.
I have judged many poetry competitions including latterly: Crabbe Poetry Competition; Ware Poetry Competition; Ripley Poetry Competition, as well as school poetry competitions
In 2016, I was Chair of Judges for Poetry By Heart (North London), the competition that inspires young people to engage with poetry by committing poems to memory.
In 2005, I curated a sequence of community poems into an eclectic and glorious hoarding manifestation for the Voices of White City project.
I curated a telephony-inspired poetry installation in 2015, the Telephone Box gallery, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Oxon: surely the smallest arts venue in Oxfordshire!
Dynamic international discussion at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
Crabbe Poetry Competition adjudication
Poetry installation in a Telephone Box, Oxfordshire, 2015
Poetry by Heart contestants, North London
Tel: 0773 9300258