When was the last time you said of a book of poetry, 'I couldn’t put it down?' Well, now’s your chance. Moving between poetry and prose, dialogue and history, Robin Robertson’s The Long Take is a propulsive verbal tour de force ... Robertson, a Scot who’s written six previous poetry collections, is known for his exquisite descriptions of the natural world and dramatic, violent re-tellings of Greek myths. Here he expands his range to include America, a country he loves. He also loves American film noir, and though its film references will make any noir fan swoon, The Long Take is, above all, a carefully crafted narrative poem ... The Long Take is an audacious and often brilliant book.
...[a] masterful epic ... It is a beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring. Here we have a poet at the peak of his symphonic powers taking a great risk, and succeeding gloriously ... Robertson, who must have given years to researching his material, writes of war with appalling immediacy, surveying the carnage with a calmly Homeric eye ... The Long Take is a masterly work of art, exciting, colourful, fast-paced – the old-time movie reviewer’s vocabulary is apt to the case – and almost unbearably moving.
The Long Take, then, is a version of the story of an epoch. And it is immaculately researched in terms of geography, current affairs, and its constant cultural touchstones in the Hollywood films of the time ... Unfortunately, the book is also quite repetitive, in needless as well as effective ways, and palls in places. Moreover, some of the American and Canadian slang feels a little excessive or ventriloquized ... Nonetheless, it is often moving and engrossing: a ballsy move on the part of Robin Robertson.
British poet Robin Robertson’s lyrical masterpiece made for a worthy runner-up [for the Man Booker Prize] and served as a crucial reminder that poetry is just as capable of telling a gripping and affecting tale as prose ... The Long Take is an expertly stitched patchwork of various poetic parts and voices ... Robertson has written a book that manages to be epic and elegiac, and suffused with savagery and beauty.
Robin Robertson is the latest in this line of generic bedfellows ... considerably more modern, complex, political, and, though cinematic, probably less filmable than March’s narratives ... despite its peregrinations in time, place, and rhythm, Robertson’s poem, when it comes to its inner workings, is also surprisingly novelistic ... Though the poem’s diffuseness tends to lessen its visceral impact, The Long Take remains a remarkable work.
And indeed, although The Long Take is definitely a poem, I can’t think of anything quite like it ... Though the poem’s diffuseness tends to lessen its visceral impact, The Long Take remains a remarkable work. An occasional phrase may be out of sync with the era, like 'watching each other’s back' or 'getting totalled,' and there are moments when the poem, introduced by a map of old Bunker Hill, reads like a tourist guide to the city’s noir hot spots. But, for the most part, Robertson gets it right, his language functional and often exquisite ... The Long Take/em> seems like a poem that’s long been waiting to be written.
...this is a book about atmosphere and style. Robertson’s characters talk to each other in tough, hard-boiled cliché, but in its all-too-frequent descriptive passages the poem allows itself to become more lyrical ... Unfortunately, Robertson is stuck in the default mode of contemporary poetry, which is fond of arbitrary line breaks and doesn’t have much truck with rhyme or metre ... There are some lovely, accomplished short poems buried in The Long Take.
...[a] hypnotic and wrenching novel in verse ... Robertson transforms the long take into an epic taking of life, liberty, reason, and hope in this saga of a good man broken by war and a city savaged by greed, an arresting and gorgeously lyrical and disquieting tale of brutal authenticity, hard-won compassion, and stygian splendor.
The Long Take’s poetry is a sustained tribute to the cinematic art of light and dark, evoking the 'gridded streets' of the American city as a 'chessboard of fear.' In virtuoso passages of abstract description, Robertson catches the shadow play of urban life ... He also does a nice line in sound effects ... What The Long Take misses compared with the brooding movies it admires, however, is a compelling central performance ... Its hero...couldn’t be more wooden if he were a California redwood ... The dialogue nods to the slang dictionary but does not come dramatically alive ... The Long Take maps its cityscapes meticulously, at every intersection reeling off imaginatively savoured Americana. But as narrative it is too much establishing shot.