Anna Robinson is a poet and University Lecturer at the University of East London, where she is in the final year of a PhD in Creative Writing. Her poetry collections are The Finders of London (2010, Enitharmon Press), Into the Woods (2014, Enitharmon Press) and The Night Library (2015, Stonewood Press). The Finders of London was nominated for the Seamus Heaney Poetry Prize in 2011. She is a Hawthornden Fellow.


Webber Street

Voice, structure and working class women in poetry

Webber Street is a collection of poems written using archival materials that discuss the history of the social-housing estate on which I live. It is part of a practice based PhD. The poems come from a mixture of sources, including oral history, photographs and letters of complaint. This paper discusses ways I have developed of bringing my spoken voice and my poet’s voice closer together, and the discussions I have had with neighbours, other poets and academics along the way about history, language and our collective narrative.

I wanted to do two things: to tell the story of the estate and its tenants and to explore and develop my own voice as a working-class London woman poet. I had been developing a way of writing that allowed a broader language palette for me and my ancestors than that which the western canon usually allows. A London woman can be crude or faux naïf and that extraordinarily narrow range does not either present or represent us. There are two different issues: one is that of my literal spoken voice; the other the fact that I am trying to develop the aesthetic quality of my poet’s voice and needing to find ways of doing that while still being true to my vocal identity and those of my neighbours. This essay starts with a discussion of my voice and my progress, as a working class woman writing in a medium dominated by middle class voices, towards finding ways to present it. It then talks about the housing estate community and the poems that explore our individual and collective voices.