Raine, Craig 1944- (Craig Anthony Raine)

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Raine, Craig 1944- (Craig Anthony Raine)


Born December 3, 1944, in Bishop Auckland, England; son of Norman Edward and Olive Marie Raine; married Ann Pasternak Slater (a professor), August 12, 1974; children: Nina, Isaac, Moses, Vaska. Education: Exeter College, Oxford, honors degree in English language and literature, c. 1965, B.Phil., c. 1968, doctoral study, 1969-71, 1972-73. Hobbies and other interests: Music.


Home—Oxford, England. Office—University of Oxford, English Faculty, St. Cross Bldg., Manor Rd., Oxford OX1 3UQ, England. Agent—David Godwin Associates, 55 Monmouth St., London, WC2H 9DG England.


Oxford University, Oxford, England, lecturer at Exeter College, 1971-72, lecturer at Lincoln College, 1974-75, lecturer at Christ Church, 1976-79, fellow at New College, 1991—. Faber & Faber, London, England, poetry editor, 1981-91. Broadcaster for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Publisher of literary magazine Arete, 1999—.


First prize, Cheltenham Festival Poetry Competition, 1977, for poem "Flying to Belfast, 1977," and 1978, for poem "Mother Dressmaking"; second prize, National Poetry Competition, 1978, for poem "In the Mortuary"; New Statesman's Prudence Farmer Award, 1979, for poem "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home," and 1980, for poem "Laying a Lawn"; Cholmondeley Award, Society of Authors (Great Britain), 1983.



The Onion, Memory, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1978.

A Journey to Greece, Sycamore Broadsheets, 1979.

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979.

A Free Translation, Salamander Press (London, England), 1981.

Rich, Faber (London, England), 1984.

(Editor, with others) 1985 Anthology: The Observer & Ronald Duncan Foundation International Poetry Competition on Behalf of the Arvon Foundation, Arvon Foundation (Beaworthy, England), 1987.

1953: A Version of Racine's Andromaque, [Boston, MA], 1990.

History: The Home Movie, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.

Change: A New Poem, illustrations by George Hardie, Prospero Poets, 1995.

Clay: Whereabouts Unknown, Penguin (London, England), 1996.

Collected Poems, 1978-1999, Picador (London, England), 2000.

A la recherche du temps perdu, Picador (London, England), 2000.


The Electrification of the Soviet Union (libretto; based on Boris Pasternak's novella The Last Summer), Faber (London, England), 1986.

(Editor) A Choice of Kipling's Prose, Faber (London, England), 1987.

Haydn and the Valve Trumpet (essays), Faber (London, England), 1990.

(Editor) Rudyard Kipling, Selected Poetry, 1992.

In Defense of T.S. Eliot: And Other Essays, Picador (London, England), 2000.

(Editor) Rudyard Kipling, Selected Stories of Rudyard Kipling, Modern Library (New York, NY) 2002.

T.S. Eliot, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of libretto Sand Storm for "Sarajevo" trilogy by Nigel Osborne, 1994. Contributor to Poetry Introduction 4, Faber (London, England), 1978, and The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry, edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion, Penguin Books (London, England), 1982. Books editor, New Review, 1977-78; editor, Quarto, 1979-80; poetry editor, New Statesman, 1981.


"Only occasionally does a poet appear whose voice is instantly and uniquely recognisable, and [Craig] Raine is such a poet," Derek Mahon declared in New Statesman. Raine is known for his emphasis on unusual images and metaphors seen from an alien viewpoint, and is considered the founder of what critic and poet James Fenton dubbed the Martian School of poets, a group made up of several of Raine's contemporaries, including Christopher Reid. Raine, according to an essayist for Contemporary Poets, "is an immensely clever poet. His poems have always been exciting verbal performances, elaborate structures of proliferating metaphor in which an immense web of interrelationship is spun."

The Onion, Memory established Raine's technique of focusing, often humorously, on the external world of objects and phenomena. This approach has been criticized by some reviewers as lacking the human element; according to Mahon, it "wouldn't matter if he didn't sometimes seem a little heartless." Derek Stanford in Books and Bookmen compared The Onion, Memory to "a bee-hive, a wasps' nest," noting that all "have the power to irritate and sting the literal-minded reader or one with a conservative imagination." Stanford praised Raine's attention to nuances and remarked: "Only an exceptionally agile dealer in language could carry it through with such self-assurance."

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, perhaps Raine's best-known work, is written from the point of view of an alien visitor who describes Earth to his fellow inhabitants of Mars. New Statesman reviewer Andrew Motion was pleased to find "Raine's energy and generosity undiminished." Motion also noticed a change in the poet's willingness to display his emotions. "Once, extraordinarily, [Raine] was accused of heartlessness," Motion noted. "In fact, poem after poem registers a deep affection for what he sees. His way of looking is also a way of baring his heart." Peter Porter in the London Observer deemed A Martian Sends a Postcard Home better than The Onion, Memory "because it is a concentration of his talent, and an intensification of his mannerisms. He hasn't set out on new paths after his initial success, but decided to tune a shining engine to perfection."

Rich is a collection that includes poems published in the pamphlet, A Free Translation, and marks the continuation of a more narrative style in his poetry, the roots of which are found in A Martian Sends a Postcard Home. "The most striking feature of Rich is its confirmation of the personal and autobiographical vein in the poet," Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Michael Hulse wrote. "‘Inca’ and ‘A Walk in the Country’ join the earlier ‘Laying a Lawn’ as celebrations of the childhood frailty of his daughter; ‘A Hungry Fighter’ and ‘Plain Song’ depict his father as boxer and faith healer, while his mother appears in ‘Plain Song’ and ‘The Season in Scarborough 1923,’ and a number of poems persuasively treat of love and sex. Though at times these poems can be too sentimental, or have that inconsequentiality which is the mark of the private in a public place, Raine nevertheless achieves both humanity and precision." Listener reviewer Dick Davis described the poet's work at this stage as "a welcome advance on his former work." The essayist for Contemporary Poets felt that in Rich, Raine "writes a marvelously responsive poetry of childhood, not least in the long and extraordinary prose memoir about his extraor- dinary father…. He writes superb poems about bereavement, political terror, and the odd universe inhabited by the mentally disordered. In an element always present in his work, but not always so successfully, he also writes a richly tender erotic poetry."

History: The Home Movie, described on its dust jacket as an "epic poem," chronicles nearly a century—roughly the period from 1905 to 1984—of the history of the Raine and Pasternak families. Comprising dozens of individual parts written in three-line stanzas, the book, which took ten years to complete, "is, on the face of it, the tale of two families, the Pasternaks and the Raines, now brought together by the marriage of Raine and Ann Pasternak-Slater (known as Li), who is Boris Pasternak's great-niece," remarked a London Observer contributor. Thomas M. Disch commented in the Washington Post Book World that Raine "has retooled his copyrighted technique of translating the garage-sale junk of daily life into riddling metaphors and adapted it successfully for epic use. The result is a novel in verse that is both an unputdownable page-turner and a poem distinctively and deliciously Rainean." Several reviewers commented on the work in terms of its subtitle. Writing in New Statesman and Society, Carol Rumens declared that Raine's "hand-held camera is an enabling device, like his earlier ‘Martian’ persona. It permits revelation through apparent incompetence. It is drawn to the erotic and the bizarre. It catches the players off-guard, peers from an odd angle, unembarrassably stares." Disch added: "History is, however, an art movie, and suitable only for mature audiences. Younger readers who lack an internalized time chart of 20th-century history may have a hard time assembling the ‘plot’ in their heads, since Raine doesn't do much backgrounding."

Raine published a collection of critical essays in 1990 titled Haydn and the Valve Trumpet. Sean French observed in a review for the New Statesman and Society, "For Raine, a poem or a novel is like a machine. The job of the critic is to get dirty peering among the pistons and cogs establishing how everything fits together." French concluded: "Raine can be infuriating in his rudenesses and his summary dismissals, but he always has the engagement of the practitioner, of the man for whom poetry is an activity and a craft as well as an elevated art form."

In his short poetry collection, Clay: Whereabouts Unknown, Raine "celebrates facts and things; the various pleasures to be gained from contemplating things; the sheer and unexpected beauty of facts," as a critic for the Economist put it. In the book-length poem, A la recherche du temps perdu, Raine chronicles a love affair from years before in a eulogistic tribute to his now-deceased mistress. Containing graphic descriptions of the couple's lovemaking and a callous and contemptuous narrator, the book's avowed purpose to "remember" the lost love, according to Gerald Mangan in the Times Literary Supplement, "rings hollow against the prevailing evidence of covert revenge." Still, he allowed that "the poem's narrative, divided by chapters in a cleverly ordered sequence of flashbacks, clearly aims for some of the dense, laconic effects of a short fiction." By contrast, Sam Leith, writing in the Daily Telegraph, called the poem "purposive, a project to revive and reconcile," and praised the "huge, tender, trivial agglomeration of detail [that] pushes Raine's poem insistently into the world."

As a poet, Raine has long indicated a personal affinity for the works of T.S. Eliot, and in 2006 published a biography of the writer, T.S. Eliot. Where previous biographies have played up Eliot's extreme popularity during the mid-twentieth century, painting him as a celebrity poet of great talent and intellectual prowess, Raine concerns himself more with the man himself. Raine's effort focuses on Eliot's humanity and the ways in which his life affected his writings. On a literary level, Raine maintains due respect for Eliot's achievements, but he manages to discuss his ground-breaking style and themes in terms of their cleverness rather than any potential inaccessibility. Raine also uses the poems themselves as a way to investigate Eliot's life, rather than searching to uncover unknown aspects of the man through in-depth research. At the end of the work, Raine includes an essay regarding accusations that Eliot was anti-Semitic, in an attempt to defend the poet. It is this portion that caught the attention of New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, who remarked: "In this final chapter Mr. Raine's admiration for Eliot—which helped him write so eloquently about the poet's work in the book's earlier chapters—leads him into a state of numbed denial." Paul Dean, writing for New Criterion, found the book uneven, stating that it "hinders its readers from forming a balanced estimate of Eliot's true achievement, his strengths and weaknesses." However, Edward Short, in a review for the Weekly Standard, praised Raine's work overall and remarked: "In excavating the buried life of T.S. Eliot's art, Raine uncovers the unfamiliar compound ghost of genius. He has written a book that all Eliot fans and all Eliot foes will want to read."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.

Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 40: Poets of Great Britain and Ireland since 1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.

Haffenden, John, Poets in Conversation, Faber (New York, NY), 1981.


Books and Bookmen, October, 1978, Derek Stanford, review of The Onion, Memory, pp. 22-23.

Daily Telegraph (London, England), June 24, 2000, Sam Leith, review of A la recherche du temps perdu.

Economist, July 13, 1996, review of Clay: Whereabouts Unknown, p. 91.

Listener, January 7, 1982, Dick Davis, review of Rich, pp. 22-23.

New Criterion, April, 2007, Paul Dean, "Academimic," review of T.S. Eliot, p. 81.

New Statesman, June 23, 1978, review of The Onion, Memory, p. 852; October 20, 1978, review of The Onion, Memory, p. 520; December 14, 1979, Andre Motion, review of A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, pp. 947-948; July 31, 1981, Derek Mahon, "A Free Translation," p. 19.

New Statesman and Society, June 8, 1990, Carol Rumens, review of History: A Home Movie, p. 38; September 9, 1994, Sean French, review of Haydn and the Valve Trumpet, p. 37.

New York Times, January 16, 2007, Michiko Kakutani, "A Devoted Tour Guide to a Desert of a Soul," review of T.S. Eliot, p. E1.

Observer (London, England), January 6, 1980, Peter Porter, review of A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, p. 36; August 28, 1994, review of History, p. 17; September 11, 1994, review of History, p. 70.

Times (London, England), December 13, 2000, Rachel Campbell Johnston, review of A la recherche du temps perdu.

Times Literary Supplement, September 15, 2000, Gerald Mangan, "No Tears at the Funeral," p. 12.

Washington Post Book World, September 7, 1980, Thomas M. Disch, review of History, p. 5.

Weekly Standard, February 12, 2007, Edward Short, "Old Possum Renewed: Craig Raine's Appreciation of Eliot's Life and Work."


Expansive Poetry Online,http://www.expansivepoetryonline.com/ (January 6, 2001), Arthur Mortensen, review of "The Way It Was," poem by Craig Raine published in Talk magazine.