Vendange Tardive is a late harvest of vintage Reading in disaster mode. Here is a rueful crop of valedictory poems in which man reaps what he sows: shipwreck, ruin, death, war, ignominy and extinction. But somehow, amid all that, there is still the fruit of the vine and the bittersweet spirit of life.
"Reading's ambition, his commitment to confronting the darkest contemporary realities, his erudition, with and dry magniloquence, mean that his work presents unique challenges and offers unique rewards."
Paul Batchelor, TLS
Peter Reading is probably the most skilful and technically inventive poet writing today, mixing the matter and speech of the gutter with highly sophisticated metrical and syllabic patterns to produce scathing and grotesque accounts of lives blighted by greed, meanness, ignorance, phoney media flimflam, political ineptness and cultural impoverishment.
"Peter Reading, one of Britain's greatest living poets, is also one of its most passionate on the page, where a tenderness for the natural world goes hand in hand with an angry frustration with the human realm. His last volume, the book-length poem -273.15 (absolute zero), focused on climate change, and while there is still anger in Vendange Tardive, here it simmers rather than boils... Reading's ability to evoke a layered, nuanced portrait of his times is both rare and necessary. That he can do so with such concision, magisterial command of metre and structure, and a great range of emotion, makes his work as pleasurable in its poetry as it is agonising in its message."
Carrie Etter, The Guardian
"Anger is a country Peter Reading has been colonising for years… the anger is expressed with classical clarity… Rage against the state of the nation, but also rage against the darkness of death, exile and inability to show love."
Helen Dunmore, The Observer
"Despair, both environmental and political, is never absent; but this is an appreciative, defiantly humane volume."
Robert Potts, The Guardian
"Deliberately squalid, violent and apocalyptic contemporary contents are yoked to forms that for the best part of three millennia have been used for the beautiful and the heroic."
Michael Hofmann, The Times
"Peter Reading's most characteristic work, always economical, is now concise to the point of terseness… leaving sparser textures and a sometimes painfully direct expression of personal sadness, anger and despair. Can we find a parallel here with other modern artists – Rothko, Shostakovich, Beckett – who found themselves, in extremis and in their later works, continuing to create less and less, moving inexorably towards the point where they would be left with nothing, the point (presumably) of artistic extinction?"