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Cluster index: Peter Riley

Peter Riley’s summer poetry 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘They differ greatly from each other, but if my intention has succeeded, they all allow the possibility of what Blake would have called “multiple vision”, however casually or marginally.’

Laura Riding’s many modes.

Peter Riley: ‘There is no escape from the demands of the process, there is no access to the open air, there is no viewing of earthly space. Everything is held in an existential and interpersonal vice from which it cannot escape, but which has its own rewards.’

Summer 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘As the selection is not in sections the three main phases of du Bouchet’s work are not so evident, but they are there, along with some possible exceptions, as when he will allow a degree of intelligibility in some quite late works, as against the ever more insistent counter-point which sets words against each other in a way which could, or arguably does, drain them of transmission, recognition, emotion, or any other linguistic function.’

Spring storms 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘Is this then an avant-garde poetry we are dealing with? If difficulty and inaccessibility are the signs of it, yes it is. But they aren’t, and this is clearly as “mainstream” a poem (if you use that vocabulary) as you’ll find anywhere. However silly it gets, the avant-garde text is active, it seeks readers, it appeals to senses of liberation and free-play.’

How to Write Poetry.

Peter riley: “‘Write Poetry’ claims an objectivity but is inescapably bedded in a history which is not only partial, it is also generational. It is generally held to be one of the best of these manuals and is still much used. It was first published in 1997 when the poetry it urges you to write was already becoming aged; a majority of the poets it refers to were born in the 1910s-30s and are in fact now dead, as are both its authors.”

On the brink of Winter 2019.

Peter Riley: ‘In his new book, Kei Miller realizes out of poetry and hard fact an entire elsewhere, a zone which lies beyond familiarity and order, beyond ownership, a dangerous zone, a fear-zone, a zone of licence and crime where “our deaths blossom like roses in the dark garden behind the house.” All his notations of this territory embrace contradiction.’

Summer 2019: New Poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘The big show-biz style promotions do often enough bestow their blessings on good poets and one of these poets did take that course. But they cannot be relied on, and the applause echoing round the Royal Festival Hall means no more than that at some pub open-mike series in the far counties.’

The ‘Discovery’ of W.S Graham.

Peter Riley: ‘As the “discovery” of Graham is conducted as a crescendo of praise, his achievement is represented as an active and positive series of acts on his part, a triumph of creativity or a “mastery” over his materials. This fails to notice what has been called the “near helplessness” in his confrontation with the independent powers of language, which runs through his career but is especially evident in the fall into utter simplicity when faced with the deaths of his friends and the singularity of love.’

Cards and notes from home and abroad.

Peter Riley: ‘I’m fascinated tangentially by what I’d call an ”American pastoral” version of England and Europe. Not to do with sheep but with an isolation of moments of perception and participation in a given cultural assembly.’

Five poets remark on prose poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘To avoid endless problems of definition, it would help if they were called “short prose pieces”, which is one thing they undeniably are. This was Eliot’s idea (who hated them). ‘

Another note on the prose poem.

Peter Riley: ‘Lineation actually helps a great deal in reaching the kind of linguistic condition I’m talking about, where the poem is no longer exactly speaking straight at you, but is overheard in the air and retained. If it’s possible to recognise something like this definition, then it is should be possible to recognise a piece which does it in prose and is certainly a prose-poem, with no more differentiation needed than technicalities of address and pace, with the possible corollary that in a poetry context prose poetry may hearken back to its informative and descriptive function, sometimes as an aside, a need to wake up and check the alarm clock.’

Opposing forces.

Peter Riley: ‘Among these poets any consideration of large-sale concern, such as war, or politics, or migration, or the earth, or economics, has to be approached obliquely through personal or inter-personal experience, landscape (rural), the impedimenta of daily existence, company, ancestry… etc. small-scale fates, little universes. Many of them are Irish or Northern Irish poets who (including Himself) have for a long time been granted the privilege of being accounted serious poets of war and politics by oblique or subsumed reference to the Troubles—the Troubles on my doorstep or in next-door’s field, without analysis or any impassioned appeal, everything restrained and particular (think of the distance between them and Whitman).’

First-person ‘identity’ poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘A first-person poetry it will always represent the poet’s quest for a personal identity in conditions of society and language which make that especially difficult through cultural dominance. It may even go so far as to define the poetry in this way whether the poet likes it or not: whatever he writes will agree to these readings not because of what he writes so much as of what he is…’

‘The lyricism of desperation…’

Peter Riley: ‘It is difficult to speak of groups among contemporary poets. All sorts of assumptions flow in concerning shared and mutual influences, common agendas, internecine conflicts and the group gets spoken of as if it were an independent creature with its own digestive system. How you read any one of them becomes infected with how you might read any other. John James and Barry MacSweeney were “associated” together — that should be enough.’

The Wide Summer Shelf, 2018 III.

Peter Riley: ‘Steve Ely pursues atrocity. Bloody, proud… holds five of his projects, all well blood-stained, one of which, “Werewolf” (formerly a Calder Valley Poetry pamphlet) has notes in which we can possibly locate a belief structure for his enterprise.’