Poet of Honour: Christopher Reid

Poet of Honour, an accolade by Ars Notoria and Word Masala Foundation, celebrates our best contemporary poets we should have read by now. They are iconic and a major inspiration.

Christopher Reid and Ted Hughes were good friends. Hughes is a profound influence on my poetics. Even Roger Elkin, another authority on Ted Hughes, did not miss it and wrote to me about it when he published my poem, Bottled Ganges, in Envoi. The point being Reid, when asked if Ted Hughes had any influence on him, replied diplomatically. Hughes had his unique voice, and his poetry demanded of readers to invest in his work. Reid’s poems are way different from Hughes’s. These are readily accessible. The words in his poetry invoke a real airy, sensual presence of images. Only in an award-winning Gujarati artist and poet, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, I have faced such trickery by words. I find in Christopher Reid, his words also conjure up Sheikh’s magic and deliver us within ‘live’ corporeal distance of images. This is a unique experience in poetry whereby you feel you are virtually touching or experiencing the object. In your transference to the ambience, you are presented with smell, taste and the sensation of touch. For me, cherries have never been the same ever since reading Reid’s poem in The Red Anthology published by Waterstones! Since my son gifted me that volume and I read Reid’s poem, it has deflected me from the bags of season’s late cherries. Is this also the sort of old age Reid talking about in a poem here? Poetry and words, meticulously chosen and deployed, can endow us with some extraordinary experience! In many aspects, the physical invocation I found in those cherries resonates with The Tomato Vine here.

Besides his poems here, please discover Reid as a maestro in his poem ‘Late’, read by Tom Hiddleston (Loki to you):

-Yogesh Patel MBE

Poems by Christopher Reid

The Tomato Vine

red round fruits on tree branch
Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

The waft, the gasp, a tomato vine releases
each time a fruit is plucked –
in spiciness, akin to the greeting (Hey!)
brushed geranium leaves send up –
brings to my mind the more intricate mind
of George Herbert, who wrote:
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
                    Finde their acquaintance there.

He had his God, his Church, his herbal lore.
May I, who have none of these,
wish him one thing more:
a tomato vine, new from the Americas.

Let his fingers, putting aside prayer,
enquire along its ramifying green instead,
and let his nose be gratified to find
occasional hidden pungent
detonations of red.

Goats and Ducks  

Man withdraws and Nature enters:
goats and ducks in our town centres
show the way that things might tend
should this quiet time never end.
Following initial urges
to nibble hedges and trim verges,
goats and ducks, firmly in charge,
would then invite wild life at large –
roe deer, fieldmice, eagles, otters –
to join their band of urban squatters
and help to tidy up the mess
we left them in our hopelessness.
A thorough civic revolution
could be both their and our solution.
With this in mind, I wish good luck
to Brother Goat and Sister Duck!

Folk Wisdom

photo of an old man beside lamp
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Older and older
         is a tall order.

A widow’s lot
        is to be forgotten.

Old friends fewer,
       new ones unsure.

Once, letters from abroad,
       now the odd Christmas card.

Pains are sharper
       and hold faster.

Hearing gets harder,
       TV louder.

Tottery steps
      mean a taxi to the shops.

Days are briefer
      as a body grows sleepier.

A son phones, 
     then leaves you more alone.

Yet too soon cometh 
     Doctor Death.

<strong>Christopher Reid</strong>
Christopher Reid

Christopher Reid was born in Hong Kong in 1949. In a career of intermittent employment, he worked for a number of years in publishing, as poetry editor at Faber and Faber, and later, more briefly, as Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Hull. He has written and published more than a dozen books of poems, many for adults, a few for children. His most recent volumes have been Old Toffer’s Book of Consequential Dogs (Faber, 2018), a canine riposte to T. S. Eliot’s Practical Cats; The Late Sun (2020), a poetry collection; and Poems of London (2021), an anthology in Everyman’s Pocket Poets series. Having edited Letters of Ted Hughes (2007), he is currently at work on an edition of Seamus Heaney’s correspondence.

To read poets honoured previously here is a roll call; please click on the name.

George Szirtes

Steven O’Brien

Nick Makoha

Fiona Sampson

Mimi Khalvati

Vijay Seshadri

Pascale Petit

Imtiaz Dharker

Vidyan Ravinthiran

Cyril Dabydeen

Tishani Doshi

Martina Evans

Sinéad Morrissey

Moniza Alvi

Ian Duhig

Raymond Antrobus

Mona Arshi

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