All entries for Friday 18 November 2011
November 18, 2011
Vendange Tardive grapes are left on the vine to dry and concentrate, creating exquisite dessert wines in the
The volume opens with a modest plea: ‘For the attention of Penelope Reading (Nunc scio quid sit Amor)’, Reading acknowledging that we write – in fact, we behave - with more exactitude when, with Virgil, we know what love is and have set ourselves to serve its purpose, even when we also know love can neither save us or the world. Vendange Tardive offers the modest assurance that love and wine can console while the human world splatters about in an abyss of its own bloody making. The world is too much with us and is getting worse and worse and worse:
The rhetorical ‘How goes it, old boy?’;
the unnerving response:
‘Infinitely sad, old warrior,
infinitely sad – I’ve just heard…’.
I cannot picture an oenologist becoming a nihilist unless he or she were producing plonk for some poisonous purpose. In an age of mass cultural plonk, Peter Reading’s poetry is vigilantly harvested and casked. David Wheatley has called Reading the world’s worst nihilist and he is correct. Peter Reading is too fine-tuned a technician; he is too funny a comic even at his blackest and gloomiest (he is poetry’s Eeyore of the eyesore); and he is still writing without tedium, derangement or barrel-scraping. I admire him for not stopping writing - despite or because of publishing Last Poems in 1994. There is no abdication of art’s rights in the late work of Peter Reading. His eye for the natural world, his sense for artistic detail, for order and for the beguilement of verbal pattern, vies with defeatism:
Hilbre, winter, high tide.
Over the West Hoyle, hurl and white swash, and above,
the sky the colour of Blaenau Ffestiniog slate.
And the long-ruined sandstone lifeboat station brine-lashed,
the slipway thrashing the saline assault into spume.
Vendange Tardive, Peter Reading, Bloodaxe Books, pb., 56 pp., £7.95, ISBN 978-1085224-884-0
Thanks are due to the editor of Poetry Review, Fiona Sampson, where this piece first appeared.