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Apprehension over Odesa

Once again I have been reading Christopher Reid and again finding his poetry both lyrical and accessible. I recently found a poem in his collection, “For and After“(2003) which is intriguingly entitled Bermudapest and is dedicated to Clariisa Upchurch and her husband George Szirtes. It begins:-

A place I’ve never been, but which, at back of my mind’s eye, I know I’ve seen:

its stately apartment blocks beginning to melt in the mid-morning blaze, its beach cafés

loud with the laughter of chess-players and philosophers. And there’s the postcard view you’ll know it

Now although the title has an ambiguity about it perhaps suggesting an imaginary destination, I can only read a few lines and think upon the city of Odesa. A city about which I only know but a few matters but one whose cosmopolitan nature makes it onto my wish list for a visit. Having seen those famous steps in Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” in the early 70s started my interest. Re- kindled by a minitrek to Istanbul and Princes Island then I bought Neil Acherson’s Black Sea. Then again reading about the trade of the Euphrasi family in de Waal’s Hare with the Amber Eyes stimulated my interest further.

Reid’s lovely poem talks of a lively city with…..

loud with laughter

of chess players and philosophers.

And there’s a postcard view-

you’ll know it

However, the city which has grasped my imagination through reading this poem is awaiting the armed assault of the invader. The sandbags surround the elegant statues. The town where Pushkin was in exile which was always a cosmopolitan treasure awaits another barbarous incursion .A large portion of the dwellers have already left their homes fearing the sort of destruction meted out to Mariupol now some 13hours journey away to the East.

There is a certain irony in the last lines in which a guitar playing poet flavours his words with…

a nonchalant beat added

to old Gypsy sorrows.

A good place to meet,

I feel, and clink

a glass or two

of something sombre as ink,

with a paper parasol in it.

Lets get on a plane and go there.


Literature Poetry

Katarina Brac by Christopher Reid- contemplations and ruminations

After several months studying and discussing poetry, Christmas has offered me the opportunity to reconsider the poetry I like and just why I like it. Christopher Reid has been a firm favourite for some time. I find him quite accessible or offering other compensations when he seems harder to understand. As I believe I mentioned previously, I find his slim volume Katerina Brac particularly interesting. Even the plain yellow cover with ionly the author and title in letters seem thrilling.

Here are two stanzas from a poem in this collection which is called Epithalamium

Something as homely

as a cat or a clock.

But what you leave unsaid

sustains you

like the net of the heavens.

Man and wife

with your life between you

like a chessboard:

a palimsest

of innumerable possibilities.

A very interesting analysis of this book may be found at-

However, although this lengthy essay is both fascinating and illuminating in respect of the Eastern European persona of the poetess, Katarina Brac, it may be difficult to accept in one respect. Viz, that the abstract politico-philosophical elements sit uneasily with the personal feminine viewpoint which Reid is attempting to emulate.

Image 1 - Dinky Toys GB N° 34C Loud Speaker Van

One of the best regarded poems in this collection is “Tin Lily”. It is discussed, for instance, in Ruth Padel’s collection of 52 Poems. It is also given a useful interpretation and the poem may be read at

I particularly like …..”It is difficult to separate the words from the razzmatazz” and applies here in 2022 as in Eastern Europe in 1985 when this collection was published first in 1985.

Book Reviews Literature Poetry

Listening to Reid

Well, perhaps I have had too much time on my hands and a surfeit of Government adverts on Classic F.M. The latter causing my blood pressure to rise despite the compensating soothing by a combination of the symphonies and the smooth and slightly manic A.A. (Alexander Armstrong). Despite the irritations of the lockdown the discovery of the variety of poetry of Christopher Reid. It is the gift that keeps on giving without the unpleasant associations of that phrase. Here is the great man talking about Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.

At the University of Huddersfield
Prose pays a call on poetry.
A seafaring tower block,
palatial, proud pristinely white
as if fresh from the drawing board
of some high minded architect,
has arrived to inspect
the tired old city.

From Reid's latest collection The Late Sun

There is something subtle and gentle about this poet that reminds me of the best headmaster that I taught under. He can be amusing, eloquent and engaging even with quite short poems like the following from his Selected Poems published in 2011.