Books by Peter Reading

MARFAN by Peter Reading
Released: Sept. 29, 2000

"A nasty, sour, sullen work, sparked only occasionally by Reading's descriptions of the geography and geology of the region."
Reading, who won the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1990, was the first recipient of the Lannan Foundation Literary Residency—which, for some unstated reason, dumped him in the obscure Texas town of Marfa (pop. 2,474) for what was apparently an unrelievedly grim year. Here, in his 20th collection, he recounts that experience in a series of disconnected images, remembered conversations, newspaper excerpts, and quick flashes ranging from a single line to a dozen. Marfa's primary claim to fame, such as it is, is that artist Donald Judd bought up a sizeable chunk of land on the edge of it and has turned it into a sort of art park, populated by his own outdoor installations and those of friends and colleagues. Reading, whose tone is condescending and snide throughout, is particularly hard on Judd, whom he perceives as a pretentious interloper. But the poet is no kinder to the locals: they're invariably depicted as yokels, idiots, and eccentrics. Reading is drawn to the town's losers—the Burro Lady, who rides about on a mule with all her worldly possessions on it, and a hard-drinking lunatic in a Chevy pickup who's convinced that the CIA is sending him encrypted messages. But even these poor folks are limned with little sympathy. Read full book review >
WORK IN REGRESS by Peter Reading
Released: July 1, 1998

Just a few years ago, Reading's Collected Poems appeared in two massive volumes, spanning 25 years of writing, and demonstrating his remarkable range of styles and his unrelenting vision of an England in decay. There's nothing beyond Reading's ken, and there seems to be no form he won—t give a shot, as he continues to do in this little volume that also rubs our faces in the squalor of post-Thatcherism, for these —desperate circumstances— demand —disparate measures.— A BBC performance piece, —Three,— contributes to Reading's self-mythology, as he provides a litany of the dead and his relation to them in time; his witty self-deprecation finds his voice literally shrinking and fading from the page—the only visual gimmick in a book that relies on a textbook's worth of formal jokes and meters, and also on the plain 'solace of Word-Hoard.— Contrarian to the core, Reading's also angry, boastful, drunk, suicidal, dismissive, and willing to mine any source, to re-imagine the works of the past in service of his timely invective. He scours the classics for the naughtiest bits, from Theocritus and Propertius to Horace and Ovid, and even translates the guttural verses of —Piers the Plowman,— with its luridly detailed depiction of the Deadly Sin, Gluttony. Reading's direct speech always engages—even his agitprop relies on quick wit and his delightful Anglo-Saxon vulgarity. Read full book review >