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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Review: Reading Poetry

I have received, recently, one of the most thoroughly enjoyable books of poetry I have read of late - Reading Poetry: An Anthology.  From Two Rivers Press, and edited by Peter Robinson, it puns on the fact that this is actually a very local anthology, of poets writing from and about the much-maligned town of Reading (home to Ricky Gervais).  Robinson observes that Rimbaud had an address here; Jane Austen was schooled here; Wilde was gaoled here.

What makes the anthology so refreshing is that it isn't grandiose in its claims - this isn't the best of anything.  Indeed, Robinson's introduction is a model of true modesty.  These are simply poems by Reading-based poets, each prefaced with a poet's commentary on how this place has or hasn't impacted on them.  As it turns out, Reading, for all its small-town Englishness, has a thriving poetry community.

The poems - mostly in the Larkin line - are well-written, observational, clever, and amusing.  I was moved by their calm, lyrical approach.  Included are the poets Paul Bavister, Jane Draycott, A.F. Harrold, Kate Noakes, Gill Learner, Susan Utting, and Adrian Blamires, among others.  Not a bad poet in the lot.  This collection reminds us of what is great about English poetry, despite its foibles, spats, conservative twinges and celebrity culture - its continuity, its depth of field, and its constant surprising relationship to wherever it happens to find itself.

Any reader outside of England wanting a glimpse into what living in a less-than-metropolitan city over here is like, and how poets get on with words day to day, should get this exemplary beautifully-made collection.
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