About Christopher Reid

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.

Six Bad Poets, Faber and Faber, 2013

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Nonsense, Faber and Faber, 2012

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Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, 2011

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The Song of Lunch, CB Editions / Faber and Faber, 2009

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A Scattering, Areté Books, 2009

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For and After, Faber and Faber, 2003

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Not to Speak of the Dog: 101 Short Stories in Verse (ed...

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In the Echoey Tunnel, Faber and Faber, 1991

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Katerina Brac, Faber and Faber, 1985

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Prizes

1978 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1980 Hawthorden Prize, Arcadia

1980 Somerset Maugham Award, Arcadia

Prize website

1995 Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

2003 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist), For and After

Prize website

2009 Costa Book of the Year, A Scattering

Prize website

Forward Prize for Best Collection of the Year (shortlist), A Scattering

Prize website

2009 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist), A Scattering

Prize website

Recordings

Christopher Reid

Christopher Reid Downloads

1The Cab

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2The Cacophony

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3The Cafe

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4The Cage

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5The Calabash

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6The Calm

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7The Canes

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8The Capsule

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9The Caress

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10The Caryatids

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11The Cat

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12The Catapult

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13The Caterwaul

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14The Celibate

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15The Centaur

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16The Change

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17The Children

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18The Chisel

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19The Chocolate

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20The Circumstances

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21The Clarinet

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22The Clatter

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23The Clearing

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24The Clew

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25The Climax

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26The Coin

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27The Competition

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28The Confusions

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29The Connoisseur

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30The Conversation

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31The Corbel

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32The Corncrake

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33The Costume

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34The Cougar

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35The Courier

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36The Coward

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37The Critics

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38The Crossroads

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39The Crow

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40The Cry

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41The Cupboard

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42The Cyborgs

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Books by Christopher Reid