Roy Fisher's The Citizen discussed on BBC Radio 3

Roy Fisher's The Citizen discussed on BBC Radio 3



In February 2022 Bloodaxe published a recently-discovered prose work by the late Roy Fisher, The Citizen and the making of 'City', edited by Peter Robinson, who also edited Roy Fisher's final collection Slakki: New & Neglected Poems (2016), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.



The Essay: Coming Home, BBC Radio 3, Thursday 22 September 2022, 10.45pm

Poet, writer and editor of Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Naush Sabah, discussed the work of the late Roy Fisher and quoted from The Citizen and the making of 'City' in her beautiful and poignant piece about re-visiting her childhood home in Sparkbrook, Birmingham for BBC Radio 3's The Essay.  

‘“Birmingham is what I think with”, said the poet Roy Fisher, and it’s become impossible for me to think of Birmingham without his writing on the city. It’s so compelling that sometimes I think it could sink me into complete silence. I’m reminded that he described the rhythms of his poems as being “very close to silence”. His oeuvre is to me like a cavernous pit dug into the guts of the city, one I might fall into and whose depths I’m yet to learn.’ – Naush Sabah, BBC Radio 3’s The Essay

Naush quoted a few lines from Roy Fisher’s poem ‘Talking to Cameras’ (from his retrospective The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2010) that follow the famous opening ‘Birmingham is what I think with’, and she went on to describe the ‘Brummagen screwdriver’ which he writes about in his poem.  A little later she reads a section from his prose work The Citizen, on page 50 of the Bloodaxe volume, from ‘I am in my home’ to ‘I must at last call beautiful?’.

The Citizen is comprised of short vignettes, of scenes and images from the city, which, cumulatively, become something larger, with a dark heart at the centre of it.’ - Naush Sabah, The Essay

Roy Fisher is discussed from 5:45. ‘Talking to Cameras’ quoted at 6:42, The Citizen is quoted at 8:04 and described at 9:45. Listen via BBC Sounds here.


An in-depth piece on The Citizen and the making of 'City' was included in Issue 4 of Annulet: A Journal of Poetics, online 13 October 2022. Read in full here.

'This new volume from Bloodaxe does so much to burnish the stature of ‘City’, presenting us with potential avenues that Fisher didn’t explore, tracing a journey from the poem’s first iteration as an extended prose narrative of just under a hundred pages through uncollected lyrics and no fewer than three different texts (including a typescript) of the suite we now know well, culminating in the authoritative edition published as part of Fisher’s 1968 collection.' - Jonathan Gharraie, Annulet


An excellent four-page review of the late Roy Fisher’s The Citizen and the making of 'City' was featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal.

‘This manuscript was long believed lost, but has resurfaced in the Fisher archive at the University of Sheffield and is reproduced here with not one but four separate texts of City.  The resulting volume is exhilarating and disorienting at once, leading us into the heart of the labyrinth only to culminate in an unfinished sentence… The maze may have more ways in now, but there is still no way out.’ – David Wheatley, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, on The Citizen and the Making of ‘City’

The Citizen was well reviewed in Write Out Loud on 10 August 2022.

‘This landmark publication, edited with an extended introduction by Peter Robinson, offers in a single volume the definitive 1969 text of Roy Fisher’s City, alongside two variant versions of it, its prose origins in The Citizen and its continuation in the form of ‘City II’ under the heading ‘Then Hallucinations’… Fisher’s descriptive powers come to fore when he writes about the industrial landscape of the city: pithead gears, dyeworks, railway sidings, goods yards, gasworks and factory districts that are deserted after five o’clock in the evening. You can almost smell the coal in the coal yards.’ – Neil Leadbeater, Write Out Loud

Read in full here.

A thoughtful review of The Citizen and the making of 'City' was featured in Litter Magazine on 19 April 2022.

‘This new publication from Bloodaxe offers us a clear sense of the history and background to the writing of City, the poem that put Fisher’s work firmly in the frame of post-war contemporary British poetry: permanency and movement are central to a life’s work-in-progress.’ – Ian Brinton, Litter magazine

Read the review in full here.

‘Robinson has given us a book well worth studying – and not just for what it tells us about Fisher.’ – William Wootten, Literary Review, on The Citizen




As a tribute to Roy Fisher, BBC Radio 3's The Verb posted an extract from their 80th birthday interview with Roy recorded at his home in the Peak District in 2010.

The fifteen-minute extract is available via The Verb's webpages here, where host Ian McMillan pays tribute to Roy Fisher.

'I was proud to be able to choose his Selected Poems, The Long and the Short of It, published by Bloodaxe, as my book on Desert Island Discs, and I know that I'l be returning to that book over and over again in the next few weeks and months, now that one of the most important inhabitants of the island has gone.' - Ian McMillan

Read the full tribute and listen to the extract from The Verb's Roy Fisher special here.

London Review of Books, Thursday 22 June 2017, ‘On Roy Fisher’

A tribute piece to Roy Fisher, who died in March 2017, ran in the LRB of 22 June 2017.  It was written by August Kleinzahler, who knew Roy Fisher well.  It a biographical piece than a detailed look at Roy Fisher’s poetry, although several poems were quoted.  Available in full here.

August Kleinzahler’s 2006 feature review of Roy Fisher’s retrospective The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2010 is still available in full online here.


[26 September 2022]

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