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To Hell With Paradise
New and Selected Poems
10% off all versions
Categories: 21st Century, British
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (144 pages)
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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 It distills Gareth Reeves’ collections Real Stories (1984) and Listening In (1993), adding previously unpublished poems and sequences, including a selection from Nuncle Music, a sequence of monologues in the voice of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.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
You and Not You
from LISTENING IN (1993)
A Funny Smell
A Dying Art
Freshman English, USA, 1970
Doggo in CA
The Cockroach Sang in the Plane Tree
Out of Season
1 Look, No Mirror
4 Touch Type
5 Listening In
7 The Entertainer
8 Pentels and Smells
9 Pots and Pans
10 The Great Fire
11 Daily Bread
12 Deus ex Machina
14 Douane Syndrome
from REAL STORIES (1984)
Theme and Variations
England, my England
Out of Bounds
Can We Interest You in God?
End of Term Report
The Graduate Trainees Take Off
Central Valley, California
A Slawkenbergian Tale
Stone Relief, Housesteads
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
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.... Shostakovichâs inner life was like âan incessantly running motor, an ever-open woundâ. It is this ârunning motorâ to which Reeves listens so carefully in these poems, matching Shostakovichâs 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 Shostakovichâs soul, a man haunted by his past and its effect on his art: âYears ago I listened to the noise of time. / It took revenge. Now I want /noise out of timeâ. 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 '...in 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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