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To Hell With Paradise

New and Selected Poems

Gareth Reeves

To Hell With Paradise: New and Selected Poems
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Categories: 21st Century, British
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (144 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2012)
£12.95 £11.65
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(Pub. Aug 2012)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • To Hell with Paradise is a wonderfully various and mature collection by a scrupulous and accomplished writer. It distills Gareth Reeves’ collections Real Stories (1984) and Listening In (1993), adding previously unpublished poems and sequences, including a selection from Nuncle Music, a sequence of monologues in the voice of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

    Distance was the occasion for poems in Real Stories: in California, where Reeves lived from 1970-1975, he wrote about England, in England about California. Distance is not only geographical: poems explore the landscape of memory too. From Listening In comes the sequence, by turns humorous, painful, wry and eloquent, about Reeves’s father, poet and critic James Reeves. The poems are enlivened by what Gavin Ewart called a ‘negative spikiness’.

    'The new poems ... are a bravura performance – spare, powerful, contained and witty.... The poet’s ear has perfect pitch.... His emotional reach into the realms of pain, loss, ageing and associated existential vertigo is all the more impressive for its formal minimalism and restraint. ‘Is there life after poetry?’ he asks at one point: not without poems like this, the reader may feel.... It is a heady experience.'

    John Weston, The London Magazine, Dec 2012/Jan 2013




    The Shape of Pain   
    Lost Clusters   
    The Bullet   
    That’s It   
    Crowsfoot, there   
    Therapeutically Speaking   
    End Man   
    The Possible   
    You and Not You   
    Self Efface   

    from LISTENING IN (1993)

    A Funny Smell   
    Bob Tombs   
    A Dying Art    
    Laid Back   
    Freshman English, USA, 1970   
    Making It   
    Doggo in CA   
    High Life   
    The Cockroach Sang in the Plane Tree   
    Out of Season   
    Umbilical Cord   
    Going Blind
        1    Look, No Mirror   
        2    Notching   
        3    Sticks   
        4    Touch Type   
        5    Listening In   
        6    Artwork   
        7    The Entertainer   
        8    Pentels and Smells   
        9    Pots and Pans   
        10    The Great Fire   
        11    Daily Bread   
        12    Deus ex Machina   
        13    Tentacles   
        14    Douane Syndrome   

    from REAL STORIES (1984)

    Theme and Variations   
    The Mentor   
    England, my England   
    English Lesson   
    Out of Bounds   
    Can We Interest You in God?   
    End of Term Report   
    The Graduate Trainees Take Off   
    Central Valley, California   
    Rat Race   
    California Sounds   
    California Drift   
    Melting Pot   
    Pepper Tree   
    A Slawkenbergian Tale   
    For Carole   
    Paediatric Ward
    Stone Relief, Housesteads   
    Blind Pianist   
    Church Wall   


    Horace I, 11: Tu ne quaesieris   
    Horace I, 37: Nunc est bibendum   
    Catullus 2: Passer deliciae meae puellae   

    from NUNCLE MUSIC   

    Notes to ‘Nuncle Music’   

    Index of Titles    
    Index of First Lines

    Gareth Reeves studied at the University of Oxford and at Stanford University, where he held a Wallace Stegner Writing Fellowship. Until recently he was Reader in English at Durham University, where he ran an MA creative writing course in poetry. Carcanet Press have published four collections of his poetry, Real Stories ... read more
    Praise for Gareth Reeves 'It isn't easy for a poet to keep faith with Shostakovich, for whom words solved nothing, whose resort was music and, beyond that, self-defeatingly and only in imagination, silence. Reeves does just that.'
    Gillian Allnutt
    'A compelling psychodrama about the tangle of self-justification, guilt and defiance that has turned Shostakovich ... into a paradigm of the conflict between artistic integrity and political compromise.... Shostakovich’s inner life was like “an incessantly running motor, an ever-open wound”. It is this “running motor” to which Reeves listens so carefully in these poems, matching Shostakovich’s expedient avoidance of too clear an equivalence between meaning and expression with language that plays similar equivocal tricks.... But Reeves sees, beyond the irony in Shostakovich’s soul, a man haunted by his past and its effect on his art: “Years ago I listened to the noise of time. / It took revenge. Now I want /noise out of time”. The rest is silence.'
    Andrew McCulloch, TLS June 6 2014
    '"The Cockroach Sang in the Plane-tree" surprisingly bypasses the personal dimension altogether. Even more startling is the liturgical momentum of its lines, a series of bleak declarations about nuclear annihilation whose potency remains undiminished in a post-cold war context."
    Keith Silver, London Magazine
     'Among the most remarkable [poems] are those which pay tribute to his father and the latter's struggle against his growing blindness... The honesty of these poems, and the way they cope with the complexity and ambiguity of emotion which perhaps must always inform the relationship between son and father are truly admirable.'
    John Heath-Stubbs, Acumen
    ' the sequence entitled "Going Blind", in which he recalls his father James Reeves... he constructs nothing less than a living memorial in verse... By making his difficult poetic inheritance part of the subject of his verse, Gareth Reeves, paradoxically, has written his most original work to date.'
    Robert Nye, The Times
     '...his images, seen through the lens of memory, are sharp and distinct... Perhaps it is when dealing with individuals that Reeves's wry insight shows to best advantage; those, and the complications and inadequacies of love. A friend, having borrowed the book, remarked: "Usually, I can't take more than two or three poems at a time; but I kept on reading this to find out what happens next!" Which seems to sum up these compulsive, memorable, well-crafted poems.'
    David Holliday, Outposts
    'Gareth Reeves's Real Stories is his first book of verse, and a very good one... Nothing is smooth or bland or hinted at. Translations from Horace, American landscape, even the lyrical harking back to Tennyson...; he handles them all well.'
    Gavin Ewart, British Book News
    '...he writes a quiet undemonstrative poetry but that is not so say he lacks scope or ambition. He says somewhere that "honesty is difficult / Devious, silent". The poems are usually short but carefully constructed around perceptions of loneliness, full of sharp but discreet observation that mounts like evidence.'
    George Szirtes, Critical Quarterly
    '...distinguished by economy, quiet wit and resolute affection... Real Stories is enlivened by a central section of poems set in California, an inspired location - imagine Joan Didion, say, in Durham. The strangeness of both landscape and people is wryly observed... This marriage of down-to-earth observation with off-beat material works well.'
    Charles Boyle, London Magazine
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