July 27th – Peter Reading

“Eschew baggage for the expedition is brief “

Peter Reading

Born July 27th, 1946, Peter Reading was an English poet, described by the Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry as “strongly anti-romantic, disenchanted and usually satirical.” 

After high school Reading studied painting at Liverpool College of Art, then from 1968-1970 taught art history. From 1970 – 1992 he worked as a weighbridge operator at an animal feed mill – a job that left him free to think and compose poems. During this time he published 18 collections of poetry, starting with Water and Waste (1970) and his first full collection For the Municipality’s Elder (1974). 

After 22 years of working at the feed store Reading was fired for refusing to wear a uniform. After this, he was supported by his publisher, Bloodaxe Books, as well as the Lannan Foundation, being the only British poet to have won the Lannan Award for poetry two times. 

Called the ‘laureate of grot’, Reading’s poetry is bleak. One of his best known collections – C (1984) is 100 poems, 100 words long each, about a man dying of Cancer. He also had a pre-occupation with his own death – publishing Last Poems in 1994, which was ultimately followed by nine more volumes of poetry before his actual death November 17, 2011. 

Reading is also the only poet to read his entire life’s work – 26 published collections – for the filmed archive of the Lannan Foundation. 

Lesson from Peter Reading:

Reading didn’t give a shit. A mindless boring job at an animal feed mill was not an albatross or a sign of failure to him – it afforded him the freedom to do what he wanted to do – write poetry. Weighing animal feed while corralling the realities of the world into verse – he is considered one of the greatest and most prolific poets of his age.

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