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Your Biographer

Christopher Reid, 26 July 1990

... Inevitably your biographer is getting it all wrong. His little screen recapitulates the few known facts. With rapidly dabbing fingertips he coaxes a workable pattern, till there it is – the truth at last! And you stand condemned to centuries of ignominy, your well-polished plea unheard ...

A Perversion

Christopher Reid, 10 January 1991

... In the Proceedings of the Royal Institute of Anthropophagy (last year’s Spring number, page 132), there is a most unusual instance recorded of a man and woman who conspired to eat each other – and would have done so, had not the laws of nature prevented it. I heartily agree with the writer of the article who denounces the whole affair as a ‘flagrant travesty’, a ‘perversion of the established rites’ and a ‘half-baked stunt ...

Cambridgeport Christmas

Christopher Reid, 3 September 1981

... Ice aches and eases underfoot: a luscious pleasure for the solitary walker, where morning flings its shadows, extravagant and pat, across playground and parking-lot. Cars are stunned by a Yuletide smother-love. Bushes weigh their meted dollops, and the boxy clapboard churches are drenched and cleansed by a piquant light from the east. One for every block, they favour a dapper domestic garrison air ...

A Disaffected Old Man

Christopher Reid, 6 March 1980

... The spider in her hanging theatre; the patient villainy of cats: the afternoon foretells disaster, now we have time to sit and watch. Outdoors, lulled by the sun, I berce the sticky brandy in my glass and contemplate the apple-tree, that writhes like a family history. My grandchildren are playing cricket with a beachball and tennis-racket. My ancient wife sits on my left ...


Christopher Reid, 19 June 1980

... God’s clownish, tumbling bells bang out their Sunday-morning scales with rabble-rousing eloquence. But what of the sad, cramped hells, we know lie hidden hereabouts? Minded by corpulent nymphets with wings and frowns, in reticence they guard their deeply-embedded doubts. A mawkish exercise, but one that everyone enjoys – to step about this cluttered suburb like a daytime ghost ...


Christopher Reid, 24 May 2001

... After Machado Dear common flies, ubiquitous and greedy, how well you conjure up those times that have gone. Old flies guzzling like bees in April, old flies launching raids on my new-born head. Flies of my early homebound boredoms, those summer afternoons when I first learned to dream. And in the hated classroom, flies that whizzed past as we hit out at them for love of their flight – flying being everything – and that buzzed against the windowpanes on autumn days … Flies for all seasons: for infancy and puberty, for my gilded youth, for this, my second childhood of innocence and unbelief, for now and for ever … Common flies, you’re too promiscuous to have found an adequate singer: I know how you’ve dallied on marvellous toys, on the covers of books, on love letters, on the unblinking eyelids of corpses ...

Two Poems

Christopher Reid, 18 March 1982

... Kawai’s Trilby Cold comforts of a hotel room: the air-conditioning and fridge join forces for a chummy hum, barbershop-style. Poised on the edge of bed, I think how far I’ve come. Two weeks ago we kissed goodbye. Now in a towerblock hotel in a strange land, I inventory the trappings of my pilgrim cell: bath, holy scriptures, a TV. Outside my window, a huge sign flushes, then cancels – Op and Pop apotheosised! Brisk neon routines jolly the cityscape, like the desk-toys of businessmen ...


Christopher Reid, 18 October 2001

... You’ve zoomed through it often enough on the long grind north, the grim dash south –    why not take a break?    Slip off the motorway at any one of ten tangled junctions and poke your nose, without compunction,    into the unknown.    Get systematically lost. At the first absence of a signpost, opt for the least promising lane,    or cut into the truck traffic    along some plain, perimeter-fence-lined stretch of blacktop heading nowhere obvious ...

Two Poems

Christopher Reid, 1 September 2005

... to stop, or enter the negative space of the minus numbers – and he’s not yet ready to play the Christopher Columbus of black-hole exploration. Top is fine, thanks. Divinely appointed to the highest ranks, however, and the Muse’s most trusted amanuensis, he knows to his personal cost that eminence is no doddle. With T for talent engraved on his ...


Christopher Reid, 3 September 1981

Some Americans: A Personal Record 
by Charles Tomlinson.
California, 134 pp., £6.50, June 1981, 0 520 04037 6
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... It is strange,’ Charles Tomlinson writes, ‘to have met the innovators of one’s time only when age had overtaken them.’ The innovators to whom he refers are those American poets – Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and others – whose work and moral example have been of importance to his own growth as a writer. The sentence quoted above, with its tinge of elegy and irony, occurs in the fourth and final chapter of Tomlinson’s new, brief book of memoirs, Some Americans, and it follows an account of the author’s first meeting and handshake (‘cold to the touch’) with Ezra Pound ...

Cage’s Cage

Christopher Reid, 7 August 1980

Empty Words: Writings ‘73-’78 
by John Cage.
Marion Boyars, 187 pp., £12, June 1980, 0 7145 2704 1
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... The writings and reported sayings of famous composers have a strange, but respectable, literary status. Their musical status is, of course, more doubtful, even where a great composer is concerned. The Stravinsky/Robert Craft dialogues provide a case in point: can these unlikely confections, stilted essays in what one might call the comedy of conversational manners, really be taken seriously? In a sense, yes, they can ...


Christopher Reid, 15 May 1980

by Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguineti and Charles Tomlinson.
Penguin, 95 pp., £1.95, November 1979, 0 14 042268 4
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Kites in Spring 
by John Hewitt.
Blackstaff, 63 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85640 206 0
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The Island Normal 
by Brian Jones.
Carcanet, 91 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 9780856353406
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New Poetry 5 
edited by Peter Redgrove and Jon Silkin.
Hutchinson, 163 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 09 139570 4
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... The Parisian Surrealists appear to have taken their games-playing very seriously. Ritual imitations of the creative act – involving the practice of automatic writing, a deep faith in the value of mere accident, and the contrivance of jokey juxtapositions – formed a vital part of their programme. One favourite exercise was called le cadavre exquis ...

Memres of Alfred Stoker

Christopher Reid, 7 August 1986

... firs born X mas day Yer 1885 in the same burer Waping pa a way Ma not being by Trade merchent Sea man in forn parts: all so a precher on Land i sow him Latter 4 of 9 not all Livig a hard Thing Ma sad: mirs Pale a mid Wife in the back room bed rom Nor wod she got Thurgh when a ANGEL apperd over the JESUS pichire which i got after it Savd my Life. * so i name Gabriel which you did not no why shod you onlie its Secd Alfred Gabriel Joseph Stoker Like that ...

A Match for Macchu Picchu

Christopher Reid, 4 June 1981

Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu 
by John Felstiner.
Stanford, 284 pp., $18.50, December 1980, 0 8047 1079 1
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The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation 
edited by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 608 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 214103 1
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... Moore’s La Fontaine, and Robert Garioch’s robust Caledonian Belli. The latter gives us: Sanct Christopher’s a muckle sanct and Strang, faur bigger nor a Glesca stevedore ... This is surely the truest kind of translation: imaginative, unservile, and risking liberties where poetic intuition tells the writer they are due. John Felstiner showed himself ...

Sweet Dreams

Christopher Reid, 17 November 1983

The Oxford Book of Dreams 
by Stephen Brook.
Oxford, 268 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 19 214130 9
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... I dislike the cult of dreams,’ Sarah Ferguson declares. ‘They should be secret things, and people who are always telling you of what they have dreamt irritate me. Nor do I like hearing psychological discussions between those who do not really know what they are talking about. There is something soft and messy about such people.’ Sarah Ferguson was previously quite unknown to me, but this passage from a book called A Guard Within (1973) is one of the 450 or so literary specimens to be found in this curious anthology ...

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