The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Better late than never. Here is a little gem that flew under my radar. I am enamored with narrative poetry. The Long Take by Robin Robertson harks to works such as Joseph Moncure March’s The Set-Up and The Wild Party. I discovered The Long Take through the library app, Libby. I plan to buy a hardcopy version of the book. Being a Film Noir enthusiast, this is a great find. Narrative poetry is a niche market, when you find a good one, you cannot put it down.

A stunning modern epic that innovatively combines noir narrative and lyrical poetry, The Long Take follows Walker, a survivor of D-Day, from bucolic Cape Breton to an America beset by paranoia and corruption.

“I can stop now,” he said,
putting his mouth to the mouth of the bottle,
“I’ll make my city here.”

Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity, and repair. As he finds his way from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but — as those dark, classic movies made clear — the country needed outsiders to study and dramatize its new anxieties. Both an outsider and, gradually, an insider, Walker finds work as a journalist, and tries to piece his life together as America is beginning to come apart: riven by social and racial divisions, spiraling corruption, and the collapse of the inner cities.

And there it was: the swell
and glitter of it like a standing wave –
the fabled, smoking ruin, the new towers rising
through the blue,
the ranked array of ivory and gold, the glint,
the glamour of buried light
as the world turned round it
very slowly
this autumn morning, all amazed.

An epic for the modern world, it is a tale of damaged people trying to find kindness in the world, of cynicism and paranoia, and of redemption. Robin Robertson’s fluid verse pans with filmic immediacy across the postwar urban scene — and into the heart of an unforgettable character. The Long Take is a genre-crossing work of stunning originality, beauty, and immediacy.