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Reid, Alastair

REID, Alastair


Nationality: British. Born: Whithorn, Wigtonshire, Scotland, 22 March 1926. Education: University of St. Andrews, Scotland, M.A. (honors) 1949. Military Service: Royal Navy, 1943–46. Family: Has two sons. Career: Taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, 1950–55; fellow in writing, Columbia University, New York, 1966; visiting professor of Latin American studies, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1969–70, Oxford University and St. Andrews University, 1972–73, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, 1977, 1978, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1979, and Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1979. Since 1959 staff writer and correspondent, New Yorker. Lecturer, Association of American Colleges, 1966, 1969. Awards: Guggenheim fellowship, 1957, 1958; Scottish Arts Council award, 1979. D.H.L.: Colorado College, 1986. Lives in New York and the Dominican Republic. Address: c/o New Yorker, 4 Times Square, New York, New York 10036, U.S.A.

Publications

Poetry

To Lighten My House. Scarsdale, New York, Morgan and Morgan, 1953.

Oddments Inklings Omens Moments. Boston, Little Brown, 1959;London, Dent, 1961.

Corgi Modern Poets in Focus 3, with others, edited by Dannie Abse. London, Corgi, 1971.

Weathering: Poems and Translations. Edinburgh, Canongate, and New York. Dutton, 1978.

Other (for children)

I Will Tell You of a Town. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1956; London, Hutchinson, 1957.

Fairwater. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1957.

A Balloon for a Blunderbuss. New York, Harper, 1957.

Allth. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1958.

Ounce Dice Trice. Boston, Little Brown, 1958; London, Dent, 1961.

Supposing. Boston, Little Brown, 1960; London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1973.

To Be Alive!. New York, Macmillan, 1966.

Mother Goose in Spanish, with Anthony Kerrigan. New York, Crowell, 1967.

Uncle Timothy's Traviata. New York, Delacorte Press, 1967.

La Isla Azul. Barcelona, Editorial Lumen, 1973.

Other

Passwords: Places, Poems, Preoccupations. Boston, Little Brown, 1963; London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965.

Whereabouts: Notes on Being a Foreigner. Berkeley, North Print Press and Edinburgh. Canongate, 1987.

Ariel V. Caliban. Santafe de Bogota, Colombia, Tercer Mundo Editores, 1994.

Alastair Reid Reader. Middlebury, Vermont, University Press of New England, 1994.

Oases: Poems and Prose. Edinburgh, Canongate, 1997.

Editor, with Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Borges: A Reader. New York, Dutton, 1981.

Translator, with others, Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. New York, Grove Press, and London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965.

Translator, We Are Many, by Pablo Neruda. London, Cape Goliard Press, 1967; New York, Grossman, 1968.

Translator, with Anthony Kerrigan, Jorge Luis Borges: A Personal Anthology. New York, Grove Press, 1967; London, Cape, 1968.

Translator, with Ben Belitt, A New Decade: Poems 1958–67, by Pablo Neruda. New York, Grove Press, 1969.

Translator, with others, Selected Poems: A Bilingual Edition, by Pablo Neruda, edited by Nathaniel Tam. London, Cape, 1970; New York, Delacorte Press, 1972.

Translator, Extravagaria, by Pablo Neruda. London, Cape, 1972;New York, Farrar Straus, 1974.

Translator, with others, Selected Poems, by Jorge Luis Borges. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Penguin, 1972.

Translator, Fully Empowered, by Pablo Neruda. New York, Farrar Straus, 1975, London, Souvenir Press, 1976.

Translator, The Gold of the Tigers, by Jorge Luis Borges. New York, Dutton, 1977; with The Book of Sand, London, Allen Lane, 1979.

Translator, Don't Ask Me How the Time Goes By: Poems 1964–1968, by José Emilio Pacheco. New York, Columbia University Press, 1978.

Translator, Isla Negra: A Notebook, by Pablo Neruda. New York, Farrar Straus, 1981; London, Souvenir Press, 1982.

Translator, with Andrew Hurley, Legacies: Selected Poems, by Heberto Padilla. New York, Farrar Straus, 1982.

Translator, Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence, by Luis Poirot. New York, Norton, 1990.

Translator, with Alexander Coleman, A Fountin, A House of Stone, by Heberto Padilla. New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992.

Translator, Amador, by Fernando Savater. New York, Holt, 1994.

Translator, with others, Selected Poems: Jorge Luis Borges. New York, Viking/Penguin, 1999.

*

Manuscript Collections: State University of New York, Buffalo; National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Critical Studies: "Glanville-Hicks' Nausicaa, Graves, and Reid" by Deborah Hayes, in Focus on Robert Graves and His Contemporaries

(Heidelberg, Germany), 1(2), May 1989; "Overdoing the Generosity" by Charles Tomlinson, in Times Literary Supplement (London), 4173, 25 March 1983.

*  *  *

Although Weathering, the 1978 collection of Alastair Reid's poems, includes a generous selection from his previous books, it also shifts the focus so that his distinctive contribution to literature becomes more evident. By contrast, in the earlier Oddments Inklings Omens Moments (1959) a playful interest in words themselves and in such subject matter as mirrors, magic, ghosts, cats, frogs, children, and games gives such immediate pleasure that his deeper, underlying human concerns might be overlooked. But the concern is present in the earlier poems. In "Cat-Faith," for example, Reid's gratitude for the existence of a creature secure in its individuality, beautifully adapted for survival in a hazardous life, is at bottom a confirmation of an ultimate virtue in life itself. His valuation finds explicit expression in "Amazement is the thing. /Not love, but the astonishment of loving." This affirmation is made in the recognition and acceptance for the law that "the garden is not ours." In "Mediterranean" we are tenants:

The rent is paid in breath
and so we freely give
the apple tree beneath
our unpossessive love.

It is the writer's "unpossessive love" that allows him to accept the variety of life as it presents itself, and it is his fascination with words that gives his poems their rare music, as in "The Rain in Spain": "Faces press to windows. /Strangers moon and booze. /Innkeepers doze." The poet's technique draws the ordinary scene intimately and delicately, as in "Me to You": "Tell me about the snowfalls /at night, and tell me how we'd sit in firelight /hearing dogs huff in sleep."

Affection, and generally tenderness, is written into the individual thing observed so that we are made aware of its transient nature, but unlike the more characteristic contemporary poet there is no sense of threat to identity. Consequently, there is an absence of tension or drama in the verse. If this is a limitation, one should not conclude that Reid's poetry, just in its observation and openness to impression, has been easily achieved. The later poetry shows reasons for his confidence and sense of wholeness. In "The Spiral" he writes,

the rooted self in me
maps out its true country.
And, as my father found
his own small weathered island,
so will I come to ground

—George Bruce

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