Wray of Sunshine

Affectation, oh affectation! How thou dost haunt the poets so. Robert Wray, as we have seen, kept a chicken on a leash. Should we be surprised?

Hardly. You will recall, no doubt, the recent study, Under the Skin: The Infuriating Life of Robert “F******” Wray by Seymour Sentana. I think the title says it all. Wray’s life was dedicated to annoying people. A chicken on a leash was, I suspect, the very least of it. Coins clinking in a fur-lined coat? Wray could do better than that. Wray better.

What should we do, however, with this curmudgeonly poet? Dismiss him as an eccentric, castigate him as a bastard: celebrate him as a pioneer? The first and second would be easy to do, were it not for the fact that, on paper (literally, on paper) his tactics of frustration did bear some wonderful fruit. Take, for example, his ’87 work, Insular Insolence. What poems! They made your skin itch, admittedly – and your hands sweat – but they had extraordinary power. Power that was, sadly, overlooked by vast majority of their readers.

Again, no surprise. Wray’s habit of attacking, abusing and verbally assaulting his own readers didn’t help his cause; even though it was the point, essentially, of his work. Essentially? I mean completely. Wray aimed to get under people’s skin – and do this he did. We will never thank him for it. And, bless the poor dead soul, he never asked for our thanks anyway. Just for our frustration.


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