Saturday, 6 November 2010

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.
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