Skip to main content

Oliver Reynolds?

Who is Oliver Reynolds?  We might still be asking that - but a new review of his latest book, by David Wheatley, partly rescues Reynolds from something closely resembling benign neglect.  Odd, since he had four books with Faber, starting in the mid-80s, after winning an Eric Gregory Award, then the Arvon Prize - proof that nothing is sure in the house of poetry.  Now, Reynolds, perhaps eccentrically working, in middle-age, as an Opera House usher, has a new collection out, Hodge.

He deserves readers.  Why does he not have them (much) anymore?  I suspect that the poetry world's indifference to many good and even excellent writers is partly connected to the social networks that, naturally, flow about publications - going to a launch one is reminded that most books receive the reception not of all their peers, but those known to the editors, publishers, and authors - if lucky.  And, as poetry circles widen and contract, with age and circumstance, some poets get left behind, through no fault of anyone's ... but, yet, are we not, sometimes, as poets, rather too au courant and modish in our reading habits?  How often do we take down the dusty, or the off-beat, from the shelves, for a second, even a debut, glance?  Many poets read widely - few read obscurely.  Not that Reynolds is obscure; even more troublingly, he was hidden in plain sight - which reminds that vogues and schools march on the bones of previous big beasts.

Comments

Rob said…
I was thinking about this earlier on. I'd found a Faber collection from the early eighties from a poet I'd never heard of. I looked at a few pages and thought it was OK but nothing special, and put it back on the shelf. Unfortunately, I can't even remember who it was now! Must have another look next week while I'm there, as I doubt anyone will have bought it.

I read widely, but also obscurely at times. I suspect more people do that than you think, Todd, or perhaps I just want to think that. From the same charity shop, I bought a book featuring 25 Hungarian poets - a poem for each year from 1978-2002. Looks interesting. Obscurity is relative too. I recently read an Iain Crichton Smith collection. I suspect he would seem an obscure choice to may of your readers but, where I come from, it wouldn't be seen as obscure at all.
puthwuth said…
Thanks for this Todd. I had always been a fan of OR's work, and was happy to give this just-out book a boost. Having followed the fairly heated arguments around the rights and wrongs of Patrick Crotty's Penguin Book lately, I think people need to remember that canons are not set in stone, and that even someone who seems to have arrived as comfortably as OR did only 11 years ago can suddenly fall away, disastrously. And be aware too that if the work was good then, it remains good now, and that we should always speak up for the unfairly neglected.
richard lopez said…
luck? surely, chance has a huge part of it. why does one poet continue to get accolades while another just-as-published writer toil in relative neglect? that's one for the ages, and in my opinion, matters nought. after all, should a writer care very much about history and reputation than that writer will, most likely, worry about fame rather than the work and the life of work, which matters, at least to me, much more. as for reading obscurely, i'd like to see more published and more written about the british poet spike hawkins. i found a few of poems in an old anthology some years ago and still haven't found many of his poems or who the hell hawkins is.
This sounds like the man I heard at a Modern Poetry in Translation launch, reading innovative translations of classic German poems. He is certainly a versatile poet!

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand

JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.