Conrad at 160: ‘How I found Dr Livingstone’, a poem by Robert Hampson

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The year 2017 has been declared ‘The Year of Joseph Conrad’ by the Polish Government to celebrate Conrad’s 160th birthday. To mark this, a poetic celebration of Conrad will take place at the National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, on the evening of Wednesday 1 November. The event is free but booking is required. The event’s line-up of contemporary London poets includes Robert Hampson, Agnieszka Studzinska, Karen McCarthy Woolf, SJ Fowler, Saradha Soobrayen, Amy Evans, Harry Gilonis and Edmund Hardy. Below is one of Robert Hampson’s responses to Conrad, originally published in his selected poems, Assembled Fugitives (2001).

 

 

How I found Dr Livingstone

 

1. her mother died
the evening I arrived
 
& her husband
was out of town.

it was a situation
I wasn’t prepared for.

 

2. she stepped out of the car
& waited
while I locked the door.

she had brought
neither shawl
nor jacket.

& her shoulders
were cold

with the drop in temperature
after dusk.



3. the night
was clear

but the path
disappeared
into the wood.

I wanted to ask her
about her younger brother

but it was a topic
of some delicacy

so we walked on
in silence

& the darkness
closed round us.
 

4. after 25 years
my researches
were nearly over.

we had almost reached
the centre
of the wood.

her hand
rested in mine
gleaming
like ivory.


Robert Hampson

About Robert Hampson

Robert Hampson was Professor of Modern Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, and is now Distinguished Teaching and Research Fellow there. In the 1970s, he co-edited Alembic with Peter Barry and Ken Edwards. He has published a number of books of poetry including 'Seaport' (Shearsman) and his selected poems, 'Assembled Fugitives' (2001). His most recent volumes include 'an explanation of colours' (Veer) and 'Reworked Disasters' (Knives Forks & Spoons). He is also a prominent Conrad scholar and critic – and Chair of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK).