Peter Reading (1946-2011) was born in Liverpool. After studying painting at Liverpool College of Art, he worked as a schoolteacher in Liverpool (1967-68) and at Liverpool College of Art, where he taught Art History (1968-70). He then worked for 22 years as a weighbridge operator at an animal feedmill in Shropshire, a job which left him free to think, until he was sacked for refusing to wear a uniform introduced by new owners of the business. His only break was a two-year residency at Sunderland Polytechnic (1981-83). After leaving Liverpool, he lived for 40 years in various parts of Shropshire, in recent years in Ludlow.
The benevolence of America’s Lannan Foundation rescued him from poverty. He was the first writer to hold the one-year Lannan writing residency in Marfa, Texas (in 1999), and is the only British poet to have won the Lannan Award for Poetry twice, in 1990 and 2004, as well as the only poet to read an entire life’s work for the Lannan Foundation’s DVD archive – his filmed readings for Lannan (made in 2001 and 2010) of 26 poetry collections make up the only archive of its kind. His other honours included the Cholmondeley Award, the Dylan Thomas Award for Diplopic (1983), and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry for Stet (1986). Work in Regress was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 1997.
Peter Reading was one of the most original and controversial British poets of the post-war period: angry, uncompromising, gruesomely ironic, hilarious and heartbreaking – as funny as he was disconcerting. He was a prodigiously skilful and technically inventive poet, mixing the matter and speech of the gutter with highly sophisticated metrical and syllabic patterns to produce scathing and grotesque accounts of lives blighted by greed, meanness, ignorance, phony media flimflam, political ineptness and cultural impoverishment.
All his poetry is published by Bloodaxe Books, along with Isabel Martin’s critical study Reading Peter Reading (2000). His first collection was Water and Waste (1970), published when he was 24, and his last, 26th collection, was Vendange Tardive, published forty years later in 2010. Each of his collections is self-contained, as carefully constructed and plotted as a novel, interweaving voices and narrative strands which can be seen to link the 24 books which make up his Collected Poems, published in three volumes: 1: Poems 1970-1984 (1995), 2: Poems 1985-1996 (1996) and 3: Poems 1997-2003 (2003). His later collections from Bloodaxe are -273-15 (2005) and Vendange Tardive (2010).
Peter Reading (1946-2011): tribute on Bloodaxe Blogs
Books by Peter Reading