No other poet is going to sensibly compare with the distinctive writing of Peter Reading, who passed five years ago this month, but seeing the American poet David Baker recently and hearing as well as going on to read some of his current poetry I was struck by a similarity in the love of mixing up and amalgamating differing written resources within his own. Reading’s work was most often complex and acerbic, and Baker’s certainly contains elements of the first characteristic, but Reading could be lighter on his poetic feet, and humour was always a fundamental part of his poetry, even when tearing the world to shreds.
The following poems are from the appropriately titled Ob. published in 1999 – a title typically and darkly humorous by a writer who documented general and specific decline in our world with his characteristic candour – sometimes caustic, sometimes comic – and the challenging complexity of love for esoteric language and metrical forms.
I am presenting the following poems because they are accessible, funny and biting. They are about writing and about others writing, and I suspect refer to a writing tour in America and reading to and working with aspiring poets. They are indignant as well as rude: a potent mix.
[With apologies that I still cannot format text in WordPress, even transferring it first to Notepad]
You say you love words?
Hmmm, let me see: ‘Sweet zephyr…’;
keep up the good work.
…poetry reading…rare opportunity…
one of the leading…whose reputation is…
recent collections: Foibles, Frog’s Breath…
gained international…lyric beauty…
At the Reading
The sham-coy simper,
the frisson titters,
In the SCR
The puerile academic quips,
the smugly learned repartee
withstanding little scrutiny.
Possibly I may find some time to peruse your
(I don’t remember your name);
more likely, though, I shall not.
an A in Histrionics
doesn’t count for much.