Peter Riley’s website
The picture is by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004): “Glacier Knot”, mixed media/ink/card, 1978. She lived in St Ives, Cornwall from 1940 and was to my eyes as good an artist as anyone else there. It is used as a cover through the generous cooperation of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust.
The book is published by Carcanet Press, and includes:
— The Gacial Stairway and five other long poems or sequences, each with helpful introduction
— 12 individual poems 2008-2010
— A prose-poem detailing a walk from Kings Cross Station to the School of Oriental and African Studies
— 59 prose pieces detailing a trip to western USA in 2007 followed by 59 very short poems derived from these pieces.
Most of the items on this site are commentaries on, extensions of, or revisions of, published works, and won’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t have the original texts to hand. There is also an amount of bibliography and an autobiographical essay on my early life.
Below are three short poems. The first two date from the 1980s and are included in the anthology The Ground Aslant: an anthology of radical landscape poetry edited by Harriet Tarlo (Shearsman Books 2011). I put them here because they seem to have pleased various critics and academics but also people not themselves involved in poetry, which is always a rewarding thing. The second was set for choir by Mary Taylor and performed by Women of Note of Cambridge. The third is new and unpublished. The places where they take place are (1) fields near Belper Derbyshire (2) The roof terrace of a house in a village in Provence (3) My back garden.
Snow has settled in the lines
Of an old ridge-and-furrow system
Striping the gently sloping dark
Green fields, engrossed script
Of duration, repetition, authority
At which that calm baby in the self
That finds it so difficult to speak
Lowers an eyelid on the shrinking day
And suddenly says outright
The entire brochure of love and all.
Stay here before you fall.
Day and night the sky arches over
hills and plain turning against
the earth, clouds springing
from the dark wooded edge fan
over the farmed land and at
night the plethora of stars
turns clear and sure and
compact in their terraces
above a veiled and separated ground.
O fine in their farming the stars
rally and exit all night.
Stars between the black branches
a rustling in the hedge
silently, the wall collapses
and the house behind me where you sleep
in the loft
my hand reaching out at night will never
except in a grandchild
the stars fluttering in the tree-tops future toys.
This site last updated 20th July 2014.
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© Peter Riley, 2007-2014, unless otherwise stated.
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