Backroom talent has a muse

Vanessa Thorpe on Faber's secret weapon

IF THERE is "a still point in the turning world" of modern poetry - a lodestar for all those disparate, lonely voices, then Christopher Reid is definitely it.

As poetry editor at Faber and Faber for the past seven years he has walked a literary tightrope, working with some of the biggest names around and yet managing to develop many of Britain's most promising younger talents.

This month, he was also the man behind a headline-grabbing poetic coup. As Ted Hughes's editor, it was Reid who helped shape the revelatory new collection Birthday Letters about the Poet Laureate's love for his late wife Sylvia Plath.

And it was also Reid whose judgement was rewarded when Don Paterson, an emerging star on the Faber list, won the T S Eliot Prize for poetry last Monday.

Is Reid the consummate backroom boy then, content to hone and polish the work of others?

The answer is, emphatically, no. If you look back at the contenders for the Eliot prize last year Reid's own name was there, along with those of the better-known Faber writers John Fuller and the Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney. Reid's own poetry, it turns out, is central to his life and this is probably why so many poets listen to him.

"His poetry should be much more widely read," said Simon Armitage, who now entrusts all his poetry to Reid first. "He tries to get the best out of a poet, rather than just editing a book. You end up feeling very confident that it has been manicured and that somebody has taken the time to consider it."

Both Armitage, who wrote Cloud Cuckoo Land, and his friend and co-writer of Moon Country, Glyn Maxwell, have recently moved to Faber, partly lured by Reid's skill.

In a world of solitary egos, all struggling to follow their muse, Reid admits that he adapts his attitude to suit each poet. "I learn everything from my poets and I deal with them all very differently," he said. "There are some poets who want every single poem looked at backwards and forwards and others who don't want it or require it."

Reid, 48, was born in Hong Kong but was educated at boarding school in England. His first poem was published in an Epsom newspaper when he was only eight years old.

He ran the children's book list for Faber and then stood in for a while for his predecessor and one-time mentor, Craig Raine, before taking over permanently.Reid now works at Faber part-time, two weeks on and two weeks off, an arrangement that he says is ideal for writing.

His latest volume of collected work, Expanded Universes (1996), was edited by Jan Feaver, a colleague. Reviews focused on the charming tone of Reid's poetry. It is also a personal quality which may have won Faber friends.

For example, he gets on well with Faber poet Tom Paulin, someone Raine is said to have described as "an obtuse chump". The story goes that Paulin retaliated by saying Raine was "an impossibly reactionary, ignorant and snobbish megalomaniac".

He is, however, far more complimentary about the "gentle" manner of Raine's successor. "Christopher reads everything very closely and encourages me," he said.

"Everything is open to question, either the taking out of whole stanzas or just the altering of punctuation."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices