This collection marks a fascinating point in the poetic career of the late Peter Redgrove, when – at the age of seventy – he decided to strike out in a thrilling new direction.
Using a liberating stepped verse form, he opens up new paths in fresh territory, while consolidating his position as one of the finest poets of the natural world. The questing eye of his imagination is in constant motion: the book is full of doors and stairs and wheels, the movement of light and water, the world’s daily transformations. Even his characters are shape-changers – the doctors, dentists, chemists and undertakers are all, in their way, magicians. And, evident throughout the collection, is an undertow of mortality – notably in the extraordinarily moving poems about Redgrove’s late father: ‘his knowledge went, and mine followed,/ Catch it before/ It leaves like a ghost,/ on these stepped verses’.
Peter Redgrove, who died in 2003, was one of the most prolific of post-war poets and, as this Collected Poems reveals, one of the finest. A friend and contemporary of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in the early 1950s, Redgrove was regarded by many as their equal, and his work has been championed by a wide variety of writers – from Margaret Drabble to Colin Wilson, Douglas Dunn to Seamus Heaney. Ted Hughes once wrote warmly to Redgrove of ‘how important you’ve been to me. You’ve no idea how much – right from the first time we met.’
In this first Collected Poems, Neil Roberts has gathered together the best poems from twenty-six volumes of verse – from The Collector (1959) to the three books published posthumously. The result is an unearthed treasure trove – poems that find new and thrilling ways of celebrating the natural world and the human condition, poems that dazzle with their visual imagination, poems that show the huge range and depth of the poet’s art. In Redgrove’s poetry there is a unique melding of the erotic, the terrifying, the playful, the strange, and the strangely familiar; his originality and energy is unparalleled in our time and his work was the work of a true visionary.