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Peter Reading Biography

(1946– ), For the Municipality's Elderly, Tom O' Bedlam's Beauties, Ukelele Music

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British poet, born in Liverpool, educated at the Liverpool College of Art, where he lectured from 1968 to 1970. He then moved to Shropshire and worked as a weighbridge operator at an agricultural feed mill before becoming a free-lance writer. His first substantial collection of poetry was For the Municipality's Elderly (1974), which established his enduring concern with lives overlooked by the social consensus. His subsequent collections, which include Tom O' Bedlam's Beauties (1981), Ukelele Music (1985), Stet (1986), and Final Demands (1988), gained him wide notice as a highly individual poet whose work makes use of innovative and sometimes startlingly arbitrary forms. Essential Reading (1986) is a selected edition compiled by Alan Jenkins, who characterizes the poetry as ‘mordant and elegiac, hilarious and heartbreaking’. The humour in his work frequently results from his use of found materials suggesting the inherently absurd aspects of modern society. His reporting of overheard conversations rich in malapropisms and highly eccentric attitudes also achieves remarkable effects. Perduta Gente (1989) is a harrowingly factual account of London's terminally dispossessed tramps and dossers. His verse has engendered controversy over the value of its unrelenting disgust at the violence, vacuous materialism, political dishonesty, and ignorance he perceives in contemporary life. In response to critics who find his poetry repellent, he has denounced what he sees as a poetic orthodoxy of soporific aestheticism and is noted for the sometimes scathing rigour of his work as a critic. His recent collections include Evagatory (1992), Last Poems (1994), and Collected Poems 1: 1970–1984 (1995).

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