After mapping Britain’s national decline over thirty years through 25 books of poetry, Peter Reading reinvented himself as a writer in his 21st-century work. The bitter social critic became poetry’s Millennial prophet of doom, directing his venom and sorrow at the destruction of the world’s wildlife and environment.
-273.15 [absolute zero] was his first new collection after his three-volume Collected Poems. The book is a lament, a tirade, a disaster warning, and an anthropologist’s catalogue of our final expedition addressed to an earlier survivor of global catastrophe, Noah of the Flood. He published his final collection, Vendange Tardive, in 2010.
'Anger is a country Peter Reading has been colonising for years…the anger is expressed with classical clarity… Rage against the state of the nation, but also rage against the darkness of death, exile and inability to show love’ – Helen Dunmore, Observer
'Despair, both environmental and political, is never absent; but this is an appreciative, defiantly humane volume' – Robert Potts, Guardian
'Deliberately squalid, violent and apocalyptic contemporary contents are yoked to forms that for the best part of three millennia have been used for the beautiful and the heroic' – Michael Hofmann, The Times
'Peter Reading’s most characteristic work, always economical, is now concise to the point of terseness… leaving sparser textures and a sometimes painfully direct expression of personal sadness, anger and despair. Can we find a parallel here with other modern artists – Rothko, Shostakovich, Beckett – who found themselves, in extremis and in their later works, continuing to create less and less, moving inexorably towards the point where they would be left with nothing, the point (presumably) of artistic extinction?’ – Alan Jenkins
Peter Reading (1946-2011)
Peter Reading reads extracts from his book-length sequences Going On (1985), Evagatory (1992) and -273.15 (2005), the first two of these from his Collected Poems: 2 (1996). Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed him reading this selection at his home in Ludlow, Shropshire, in June 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).