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Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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Crossing 
by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... Doubts, prevarications, velleities, different kinds of inability to act: these are the overt themes of many of the poems in John Fuller’s inventive new volume. The title, Lies and Secrets, does not belong to any one poem, but is a warning that no statement found in the book should be relied on either for straightforwardness or for a disclosure of the whole truth ...

Writing a book about it

Christopher Reid, 17 October 1985

Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 390 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7011 3953 6
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... The most successful pieces in Norman MacCaig’s Collected Poems tend to be lists of one kind or another. He is best, too, when he has found something to celebrate. A poem such as ‘Praise of a Collie’, which enumerates the virtues of an admired sheep-dog, now dead, works well enough as a primitive catalogue. The fourth of its five three-line stanzas gives something of its flavour: She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog ...

Great American Disaster

Christopher Reid, 8 December 1988

To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Penguin, 174 pp., £4.99, September 1988, 9780140585803
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... Joseph Brodsky’s new selection, To Urania, gets off to a troubled start with a 20-line poem that contains at least one grammatical slip and a sentence of baffling absurdity. The slip occurs in line four, where we meet the construction ‘dined with the-devil-knows-whom’ – an accusative that seems to me justified by neither the rule-book nor colloquial usage ...

Poetry Inc.

Christopher Reid, 18 September 1986

A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke 
by Donald Prater.
Oxford, 472 pp., £25, March 1986, 9780198157557
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Letters: Summer 1926 
by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva and Rainer Maria Rilke, edited by Yevgeny Pasternak and Yelena Pasternak.
Cape, 251 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 224 02376 4
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... To read Donald Prater’s biography of Rilke in the hope of getting to know the poet in depth would be a tantalising exercise. Lack of information is not the problem. There is no shortage of documentary evidence available to the investigator and Prater has made full use of it. Rilke himself supplied his large share in letters of a princely egocentricity, upon which he appears to have lavished a formidable outlay of time and creative energy ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... Among her admirers, who tend to be wholehearted and fervent, the feeling is that Elizabeth Bishop has not yet received anything like her critical due. Things are improving – in the United States more rapidly than over here, where admission to the Pantheon seems as slow and grudging a process, and as prone to archaic shibboleths and mysterious blackballings, as election to a Pall Mall club ...

Here comes Amy

Christopher Reid, 17 April 1986

What the light was like 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 110 pp., £4, February 1986, 0 571 13814 4
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Facing Nature 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 110 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 233 97798 8
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Nero 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 128 pp., £4.95, November 1985, 0 224 02346 2
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V. 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 36 pp., £8.95, December 1985, 0 906427 98 3
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Dramatic Verse: 1973-1985 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 448 pp., £20, December 1985, 0 906427 81 9
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Sky Ray Lolly 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 7011 3046 6
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The Tower of Glass 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Mariscat, £3, September 1985, 0 946588 07 4
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Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis 
by Wendy Cope.
Faber, 65 pp., £7.95, March 1986, 0 571 13977 9
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... something braver and more personal. One in particular, ‘My Lover’, borrows its form from Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Deo and, by following Smart’s questionably logical use of the conjunction ‘for’ at the beginning of each line, offers as frank and funny an account of the irrational nature of love as I have ever ...

John and Henry

Christopher Reid, 2 December 1982

The Life of John Berryman 
by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 451 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 7100 9216 4
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Poets in their Youth: A Memoir 
by Eileen Simpson.
Faber, 272 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 571 11925 5
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... When John Berryman’s first full-length collection of poems, The Dispossessed, was published in 1948, Yvor Winters wrote a notice of it for the Hudson Review. Here Winters drew attention to Berryman’s ‘disinclination to understand and discipline his emotions’, and went on to suggest: ‘Most of his poems appear to deal with a single all-inclusive topic: the desperate chaos, social, religious, philosophical and psychological, of modern life, and the corresponding chaos and desperation of John Berryman ...

Ringmaster

John Redmond, 28 November 1996

Expanded Universes 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 55 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571179244
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... was shortlived, and as a descriptive term, misleading. Largely the creation of Craig Raine and Christopher Reid, the movement was characterised by, and remembered for, unusual similes and exotic descriptions. Its name derived from the title poem of Raine’s second collection, A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1979), in which the Martian, rather like ...

Decorations and Contingencies

John Bayley, 16 September 1982

Pea Soup 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 65 pp., £4.50, September 1982, 0 19 211952 4
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... itself, its own message as a great deal of medium. In the hands of brilliant performers such as Christopher Reid, John Fuller or Craig Raine, the results can be extremely variegated and highly satisfying. It is of course misleading to put such names together – they are as different from each other as from any other poets writing today – and yet ...

In an English market

Tom Paulin, 3 March 1983

Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 181 pp., £3.50, October 1982, 0 86068 269 2
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... fantasy is current at the moment. In ‘A Whole School of Bourgeois Primitives’, for example, Christopher Reid designs another version of England caught in a moment of buzzy stasis: Our lawn in stripes, the cat’s pyjamas, rain on a sultry afternoon and the drenching, mnemonic smell this brings us surging out of the heart of the garden: these ...

A Martian School of two or more

James Fenton, 6 December 1979

A Martian sends a postcard home 
by Craig Raine.
Oxford, 46 pp., £2.95
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Arcadia 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 50 pp., £2.75
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Love-Life 
by Hugo Williams.
Whizzard Press/Deutsch, 40 pp., £2.95
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A Faust Book 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 70 pp., £3.25, September 1979, 0 19 211895 1
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Time 
by Yehuda Amichai.
Oxford, 88 pp., £3.50
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... its implications. This is a good period for English poetry. Not only is there Raine. There is also Christopher Reid, whose work bears a sufficient similarity to that of Raine for one to talk of a Martian school. Arcadia, Reid’s first collection, is an elegant and original book whose virtues remind one of the ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... is frequently welcomed by its victims, who recognise it as a compliment, however backhanded.’ Christopher Reid touches on all this, not backhandedly but caressingly, in his ‘Letter to Myself’ of Clive James: Dear Clive, I’ve meant to scribble you a letter For some time now. I know you like to get a Brown-noser now and then, and – well ...

Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

Studies in the Ezra Pound 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 388 pp., £25, April 1991, 0 85635 850 9
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Poems 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 205 pp., £8, August 1991, 0 436 25676 2
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Under the Circumstances 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 64 pp., £5.99, May 1991, 0 19 282834 7
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In the Echoey Tunnel 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 73 pp., £12.99, September 1991, 0 571 16252 5
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A Cold Coming 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 16 pp., £2.95, July 1991, 1 85224 186 1
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... differ from the ‘proses’ except that they don’t go all the way to the margin? Christopher Reid’s new book presents itself strangely. Its title, The Echoey Tunnel, and a cover illustration reminiscent of the Moomintroll stories, suggest a children’s book; and if you should open at the central poem, ‘Memres of Alfred ...

Entrepreneurship

Tom Paulin: Ted Hughes and the Hare, 29 November 2007

Letters of Ted Hughes 
edited by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 756 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 571 22138 7
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... during this visit that Hughes and Assia fell in love. Sensing this, Plath saw her visitors off, Reid notes, ‘in a mood of tension and unvoiced rage’. Hughes and Assia would afterwards meet clandestinely in London, until an argument during a visit by Plath’s mother, Aurelia, caused Hughes to leave Plath. In the late summer, Hughes writes to Olwyn that ...

My Americas

Donald Davie, 3 September 1981

... us. One of them is John Felstiner, whose book about Neruda was reviewed in LRB a few weeks back by Christopher Reid.1 Felstiner some years ago wrote an essay that I for my part found arresting and persuasive, in which he argued – largely on the evidence of directions taken by several serious poets (Robert Lowell and Robert Bly, Elizabeth Bishop and Ed ...

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