Richard Price’s poetry is perhaps most distinctive for its compelling mixture of lyric and avant-garde experimental tendencies; he is a poet as likely to write with a tender warmth and compassion as he is to push language’s everyday, hesitant provisionality to breaking point.
Price was originally associated with the Informationists, a loose collective of poets in the 1990s which included his Scottish compatriots W N Herbert and David Kinloch, both of whom also feature in the Poetry Archive. The self-professed aim of this group was, as Price himself said, ‘to rewire the new of the everyday to itself’ and ‘engage with the jargon of information society’. But while this Archive recording reveals a fascination with the whirr and blur of technology – the back-lit galleried artworks of ‘Softened, bright’, or a new upgrade that will ‘read everything’ in ‘Big Bang research’ – what increasingly distinguishes Price’s writing is its intimacy, its personal note of you/I lyric exchanges. As Robert Potts has noted in The Guardian, at its best his poetry is ‘clear, witty, intelligent, versatile and often highly moving; superb examples of a hard-earned surface simplicity conveying oceanic depths of feeling and thought’.
Born in 1966, Price grew up in Renfrewshire, Scotland, later training as a journalist in Edinburgh, before reading English and Librarianship at the University of Strathclyde. His day job as a librarian may well in part account for his fascination with information and the often precise, sparse detail of his poetry. But Price’s writing is also notable for its playful, even mischievous qualities, and its disarming, gentle humour. In particular, this Archive recording showcases an ability to write poems to and from childhood, mixing nostalgic memory and knowing innocence with the concerns and revivified joys of the adult poet, as a father of young daughters. ‘The world is busy, Katie’, featured in the online selection from this Archive recording, is a fine example: an exquisite near-sonnet that combines a steady rhythm and end-rhymes with an utterly authentic speaking voice, it delivers a lullaby to a restless child, while acknowledging the ‘small world’ we all inhabit, as life writ large teems beyond the walls of the house.
Throughout this recording, Richard Price reads with a quiet authority but also reassuring humanity. There is an animated quality to his voice, but the poet also pauses to take stock, allowing the reader to do the same. From the ‘holiday romance’ of a deckchair to melancholy’s interior, ‘a quiet river’s stepping stones’, the poems chart the highlights of five published collections with Carcanet Press, confirming Abi Curtis’ assessment of Price as ‘a poet who listens, and this is what makes his work sing’.