Often associated with the short-lived Martian school of the 1980s, Christopher Reid’s poetry has come a long way since the extra-terrestrial metaphors and puzzling imagery that were the hallmark of his early writing. His gift for unusual, typically comic description has never deserted him, just as a weightlifter in Arcadia (1979), his debut book of poems, is ‘glazed, like a mantelpiece frog’, as he ‘strains to become // the World Champion (somebody, answer it!) / Human Telephone’, a more recent piece from 2012’s Nonsense, his eleventh collection, finds ‘a bee gang carrying out a spot raid / on the tight-squeeze flowers / of a shaken sage-bush’. But over the course of 30 years, his flair for novel conceits and witty observations has been complemented by a deepening, at times meditative seriousness, and an unrivalled emotional range. No collection exemplifies this better than A Scattering (2009), Reid’s honest, undeceived and heartbreaking account of the loss of his wife, the actor Lucinda Gane, to long-term illness. ‘It is undeniably tender’, the poet and publisher Craig Raine has noted, ‘an important and touching subject, and work of great, unobtrusive skill’.

Reid was born in 1949 in Hong Kong. After education at boarding schools in the Home Counties and at Oxford, he moved to London, where he still lives. He has worked variously as a university lecturer, freelancer, and most notably as poetry editor at publishing house Faber and Faber, where he helped rejuvenate a flagging list in the 1990s with new talents such as Simon Armitage, Lavinia Greenlaw and Don Paterson. Alongside his day jobs, Reid’s own poetry has quietly asserted its quality over the years. Katerina Brac (1985), a series of ‘translations’ after an invented Eastern European woman poet, is now heralded as something of a minor masterpiece, demonstrating a delicate suggestiveness hitherto lacking in Reid’s writing  ‘an arrival of Pale-blue Butterflies’ are ‘so common / that nobody, except the wobbliest of toddlers / bothered to try to catch them’ as well as a more straight-talking brand of realism: ‘what our people have always required, / but never yet been given’. From there, Reid has published numerous volumes. Some, like For and After (2003), specialise in dedications to friends and family alongside translated versions after masters such as Homer, Baudelaire and Li Po; others, such as Mr Mouth (2006) and Six Bad Poets (2013), revel in other adopted personae, the latter being a farce-in-verse that tells the tales of a bunch of hapless poetasters.

This Archive recording draws on Reid’s latest book, The Curiosities (2015), an ambitiously wide-ranging collection of poems clustered around the letter ‘C’. Short but action and observation-packed, these lyrics are perspective-changing mini-narratives, on everything from chocolates to clarinets, cupboard to critics, cowards to cougars.  Darting with impressive sleight-of-hand between profundity and comic play, the commonplace and the extraordinary, they mirror Reid’s delivery ‘clear, knowing, and with a refined sense of timing’ and reveal how, as Alan Hollinghurst has said, his writing can be ‘disproportionately rich in exact observation, sorry comedy, and controlled pathos’.

Christopher Reid’s recording was made on 11th October 2013 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Christopher Reid's recording was made on 11th October 2013 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poems by Christopher Reid

The Chocolate - Christopher Reid
The Cry - Christopher Reid
The Cougar - Christopher Reid
The Clew - Christopher Reid
The Cupboard - Christopher Reid
The Crow - Christopher Reid
Christopher Reid in the Poetry Store

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Books by Christopher Reid



Nominated for Whitbread Award for Poetry

Prize website

Nominated for Whitbread Award for Poetry

Prize website

Costa Book Award for A Scattering

Prize website