Vast distances are covered in XIV Pieces - great swoops over space and time, achieved without fuss. There are subtle patterns woven through the fourteen pieces, but these do not complicate matters. Instead, the patterns make things simpler by echoing key themes. Motifs of love, food, night, music and death sound and resound. One of the poems is addressed by a grandparent to a grandchild and it enacts a gentle tremor of mortality. Sometimes the future is somebody else's future, as the sixth piece ‘Alpes Maritimes' reminds us.
Riley writes ‘art poetry' of a metaphysical, passionate kind, beautifully crafted. The writing is ambitious, to provide the ‘necessary script' for ‘the journey which the unmirrored and unmirroring self constantly undertakes in its participation in lived reality - acts of love, queuing for milk, patient inquiry into the sublime...' as he wrote some years ago.
Often the stage of this ‘lived reality' is the English Peak District. It is itself in these writings, an actual place. But this limestone dome also stands as an image of the world, an image of the mind, and of the star-lit dome of the sky. This real and symbolic landscape is riddled with contradictions, and riddled with caves, gaps, seams, ore, mysteries and imaginings. It is associated with the labour of working people, beauty and hidden richness. It is also associated with a refusal to be complicit in the harmful, the squalid and the slovenly.
XIV Pieces is published by Longbarrow Press and consists of a small booklet together with an even smaller CD featuring Riley reading the poems, with some additional music. Longbarrow has published some excellent work, by about ten men, and boasts high production standards. (But if they don't publish a woman poet soon, someone is going to start wondering why.)
As for Peter Riley, it is now 43 years since his first poetry publication (Love Strife Machine, Ferry Press, 1969). Much of his finest work is published by Shearsman and Carcanet. In terms of his range, intensity, vision and craft there isn't a more significant poet writing in this country today.
Peter Hughes' poetry publications include Paul Klee's Diary, Blueroads, Nistanimera, The Summer of Agios Dimitrios and The Pistol Tree Poems. Nathan Thompson writes of it as ‘flickering, intense, innovative and utterly mesmerising'.