The Finders of London

Anna Robinson’s Portraits of Women – East London 1888

Anna Robinson picToday’s poems (for there are five as part of a set) are by Anna Robinson from her collection, The Finders of London. I would say that Anna herself is a finder of London as she uses poetry to show a history of the capital from a different perspective, following a tradition that goes back to Henry Mayhew’s classic ‘London Labour and the London Poor‘.

She does this so well in these prose poems, which strip away the sensationalism and misogyny so inherent in portrayals of the Whitechapel/Ripper murders, leaving us with a rich description of these women’s lives in the year 1888. These are women who may be full of contradictions (She does not drink except for rum) have fallen foul of the law (She has been arrested for impersonating a fire engine down Aldgate) and are controlled by men, but they find ways round (She keeps a key in her petticoat pocket. It is for the padlock the waterman uses to try to make her stay). The shadow of these women’s fate makes these poems tragic but they are also funny and uplifting, and give us a picture of London’s Victorian poor from a new angle. (more…)