Peter Redgrove

Peter Redgrove most recent volume of poems was The Apple Broadcast. He teaches at Falmouth School of Art and has brought out an anthology: Cornwall in Verse (Secker, 68 pp., £5.50, 17 May, 0 436 40987 9). He speaks of himself there as having ‘sired several children on this soil, which may make me, as an immigrant father of citizens, some kind of honorary Cornishman’. He explains that ‘poems are tuning-devices, and Cornwall is sending out many interesting broadcasts.’ The selection bears out this claim. It is short, but has a wide span of work: Hardy, Betjeman, D.M. Thomas, the unsung John Harris (1820-1884), who plumbs the Duchy’s mines:

In memoriam H.S.

It is sweet and decorous To light the fire in the hearth and dream Of the death of poets. The boulders Follow him, scoring huge trenches To where he sits on a hill, letting the wind Play his lyre; it was Aeolus who played it And Orpheus fitted words to the improvised music, As I do now, to the jumping figures in the fire That rends and heals, my spliff Balsamic among the books...

Poem: ‘White Midas’

Peter Redgrove, 6 July 1989

It is the Pope, the veritable white Polish Pope, The Pope who has been a poet, the published Pope, He who kisses the soil, and accordingly

Worships a Black Virgin, now like a Christ-child He has re-arrived, in a cradle, a deep wicker, And it has a glow of dayspring gold, an aura,

As though he were frying delighted in pure oil: He was vibrating gold and this was his atmosphere, And I? I was...

Poem: ‘The Night-Chandlers’

Peter Redgrove, 1 August 1985


A double fugue for wings

The phallaina, the moth The Winged Wurm, And the harbour lights Snaking in their busy sleep In the nesting water.

And in the dark of morning The spirit-candles passing over the water, The night-chandlers on their way to work, Fitting and outfitting, the wharfingers.

I touch that Self in her skin.

The water-rictus of the dawn ice That just touches the shores.

My face...

Poem: ‘Model Railway Club, Staines’

Peter Redgrove, 7 March 1985

Hobbyists by the river Under the cold hairy willows, In peaked caps and faded railway overalls And astride saddle-sized model trains, Chug under bare willow wickerwork gilded by winter sun Puffing more white steam than their crib-sized engines. Even the dog-shit is happy among these frosty hobbyists, Lying down as is its wont Like shed pelt of a ginger kind Tightly wound like secretive...

Poem: ‘Unpasteurised’

Peter Redgrove, 24 January 1985

The strange unpasteurised heights, And that excellent suntanned all-copper Waterworks sticker mechanism

With plastic ballcocks sucking at them And snowflake zinc tanks sunk high Into the arteries of a cloud-mountain Of circulating ocean.

We empty the system and venture With flaming torches into the mains, Into the conduits maned with weed That falls about our heads uncombed, which lead


Two Poems

Peter Redgrove, 19 July 1984

The Party in the Woods


Each fly a little Isis, A transformer, buzzing; The trees worried by their wolf, The wind. The spring of water, An almost silent work, continuing Under the threshold of sleep. The little rivers of gnats.


The boy showed us a pleasant trick, Taking his penny-whistle to the gnatswarm, Which widened to the low notes like the outline Of a Russian doll that can never be...

Poem: ‘The Offices in the Old Baths’

Peter Redgrove, 17 November 1983

(for Peter Porter)


The maroon-hued slugs swallow the garden down. Out at sea the ships on fire with light Like burning soldiers drawn up on parade.

I switch on the electric light; It is a furnace in a vase. Then the maroon that slaps the night:

The lifeboat is out, One of those lighted ships is toiling With some current like a great maroon dragon;

Let its stacked lights not be quenched. I...

Poem: ‘City of Boys’

Peter Redgrove, 18 August 1983

Who was cast out of heaven But is alive in me. A certain Ghost dangles foaming in his jaw.

My tongue licks my palate And the big shed of my jaws Distils. The head of beer

Pocked like the Moon in craters Alive in me. In this city of boys A million open collars of beer

The fizz hanging in the throat Like a gossamer in a well, The moon going down

In black tides, the spirit Distilling in the dark...

Two Poems

Peter Redgrove, 3 February 1983

Hall of Clothes and Circuses


The rich seaside stones turn to cloth at a word, To magnificent garments, the tweeds of the granite, Felspar woven with mica and buttons of quartz. The whole earth at a word is a magnificent garment Which the Lord wears, A magnificence sewn for him by his Mother,

The smooth sleeves of wet slate, the sewn pearls of barnacles, A dressing-gown of sliding sand, a...

Three Poems

Peter Redgrove, 17 June 1982

In Lincoln Museum

The rock-tree underground Moving its boughs slowly, The sky-blue flintfruits Rising in the soil Gradually like sealed firmaments;

Knapped open they show Blue and cloudy white; Or like bubbles of the oozy bedrock, Like sky-blue apples falling upwards

Very slowly. The hollow blue-black Underground tree of the mine, The thick orchards of the mines Berried with flints, and these...


Magical Masturbation

7 October 1982

SIR: I do not know what personal nerve I could have touched in Anita Brookner for her so sourly to misrepresent my novel The Facilitators in your columns (LRB, 7 October). I would have hoped that your journal’s previous interest in my work would have guaranteed at the very least a fairly close reading of my text. The core or disclosurepoint of the book is on page 142, and includes a famous quotation:...
SIR: John Layard gave me a version of the story of his ‘suicide’ at variance with the one recounted in Karl Miller’s review of Charles Osborne’s W.H. Auden: the Life of a Poet (LRB, 17 April). He told me that Auden had stolen a boy that he (Layard) was in love with; in despair he shot himself in the mouth to end it all. Greatly surprised to find himself nevertheless still alive,...

Escaped from the Lab: Peter Redgrove

Robert Crawford, 21 June 2012

Peter Redgrove’s sexual ritual, ‘the Game’, ignited some of his most arresting poetry and was vital to his personal mythology.

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What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

Most books offered as poetry never leave the condition of prose – which is not to say they are good prose. But when a prose voice enters poetry, it can clear and freshen the air. Beside...

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Baby Power

Marina Warner, 6 July 1989

In 1894, the same year that the Children’s Charter extended new legal protection to the young, the English painter Thomas Gotch portrayed his young daughter in majesty like a Madonna by...

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Tom Paulin, 1 August 1985

Recently I received a somewhat smug letter from one of the editors of PN Review asking me to contribute to yet another symposium on the state of critical chassis which still persists in Great...

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Anita Brookner, 7 October 1982

The President’s Child works, effortlessly, on many levels. First, it is a political thriller. Isabel Rust, a television producer and former hack reporter, once had an affair with a man who...

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Beach Poets

Blake Morrison, 16 September 1982

A more sophisticated version of Larkin’s cry ‘Foreign poetry? No!’ is the belief that the poetry of certain parts of the world (Eastern Europe, for example) is intrinsically...

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Honey and Water

Michael Irwin, 7 August 1980

In the first chapter of Peter Redgrove’s novel we are introduced to a poet named Guy, who is about to read aloud some poems he has written about bees. He breaks off a meandering...

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Christopher Reid, 15 May 1980

The Parisian Surrealists appear to have taken their games-playing very seriously. Ritual imitations of the creative act – involving the practice of automatic writing, a deep faith in the...

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Roger Garfitt, 20 March 1980

One of the tropes of Classical rhetoric, which surfaced again in the Jacobean fascination with death, was that of the relentless mutability of matter – Alexander the Great could be turned...

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