William Robertson has an MA, writes poetry and fiction, and fills the roll of homemaker. Having garnered these facts from his bio, I braced myself for poems about wonderful children, the strong but adorable partners that help us raise them, and the tough yet uplifging lives that we all lead. There are increasing munbers of househusband poets and such platitudes are the all-too-standard fare in the growing genre of househusband poetry.
I was dead wrong about William Robertson. His Adult Language Warning stays deliberately away from sugar-coated optimism. He is honest enough to know when the kids, housekeeping and society in general are driving him crazy, and frank enough to put that self-knowledge in poems where we can see it. There are celebrations of love and beauty, too, but I for one am glad to see domestic life as we really live it. The anger and consequent tough-mindedness breathes life into the poems.
Robertson loves fiercely, but gives no quarter. He takes a hard look at the world, holding us all responsible for misogyny and racism, and takes an even harder look at himself in poems like Every Father’s Dream For His Daughter. In some poems the tone is almost belligerent, but Robertson seems to know that this is his weakness. He has the characteristic male determination to never wimp out while undercutting that very pose with irony and humor. There’s one perfect scene at the end of a poem where he describes his childhood self. Some hometown bullies have found out that he, the son of missionary parents, was born in Japan. “I lost an uncle to them Japanese,” says one threatening tough guy. “I lost two uncles,” retorts the future poet.