Peter Riley

Peter Riley (b. 1940) is a contemporary English poet, essayist, and editor. Riley is known as a Cambridge poet, part of the group vaguely associated with J. H. Prynne which today is acknowledged as an important epicenter of innovative poetry in the United Kingdom. Riley was an editor and major contributor to "The English Intelligencer". He is the author of ten books of poetry, and many small-press booklets.


Born in Stockport, near Manchester, and raised in an environment of working people, Riley entered higher education through Britain’s post-war socialistic educational policies. [ [ Author Page at "British Electronic Poetry Centre"] ] He read English at Cambridge University and has since lived and worked in the UK and abroad in various kinds of teaching and casual employment. Since 1985 he has lived in Cambridge, where for nearly two decades he operated a mail-order poetry book business. He has written studies of Jack Spicer, T. F. Powys, improvised music, poetry, lead mines, burial mounds, village carols and Transylvanian string bands, and has published two books of translations from the French poet Lorand Gaspar. He has been an advocate for neglected British poets from the 1930s and 1940s, in particular Nicholas Moore (1918-1986), and he has edited several posthumous books of Moore's.

Riley was the co-editor (with Andrew Crozier and others) of the important poetry/poetics journal "The English Intelligencer" (1965-1968), and editor of the later "Collection" (1968-1970). From the 1980s to the 2000s he ran the imprint Poetical Histories, which focussed on brief (4-12pp) pamphlets published on fine paper. Notable publications included J.H. Prynne's "Marzipan" and his sole poem in Chinese, "Jie ban mi Shi Hu"; R. F. Langley's "Man Jack"; and late work by the older poets Sean Rafferty and Dorian Cooke.

In the 1970s Riley was an important early promoter of and advocate for British free improvisation, and the noted guitarist Derek Bailey was a lifelong friend; two of Bailey's late solo albums, "Takes Fakes & Dead She Dances" and "Poetry and Playing", contain tracks of Bailey playing guitar while reading aloud from Riley's poetry. Several books of Riley's from this period are responses to free jazz and free improvisation: "The Musicians The Instruments" (poetry, The Many Press, 1978) and "Company Week" (prose, Compatible Recording and Publishing, 1994) in response to Bailey's 1977 Company Week event, and "The Whole Band" (Sesheta, 1972), in response to performances by John Tchicai's Cadentia Nova Danica. This habit of responding to music in his poetry has continued in more recent work, such as the "Reader/Author/Lecture" series (with poems for or after Syd Barrett, Arnold Schoenberg, John Sheppard &c) and his more recent books concerning music encountered on his travels in Eastern Europe.

Riley was the subject of an essay collection, "The Poetry of Peter Riley" (The Gig, 1999/2000) and a poetry festschrift, "April Eye" (Infernal Methods, 2000).

Excavations & Riley's poetics

"Distant Points" is a series of prose poems arising from the author’s meditations on 19th century excavation reports of prehistoric burial mounds in the north of England. As Riley himself explains, this particular work is: Quotation|"...concerned with the human burial deposits of the so-called Neolithic/Bronze Age culture of what is now the Yorkshire Wolds, as documented in two books of late 19th Century tumulus excavation accounts: by J. R. Mortimer (1905) and Canon William Greenwell (1877)."

Commenting on this work, American poet and Zukofsky scholar Mark Scroggins offers this insight:

elected publications

*"Love-Strife Machine" (Ferry Press, 1969)

*"The Linear Journal" (Grosseteste Press, 1973)

*"Lines on the Liver" (Ferry Press, 1981)

*"Tracks and Mineshafts" (Grosseteste Press, 1983)

*"Distant Points: Excavations Part One, Books One and Two" (Reality Street Editions, 1995)

*"Snow has Settled [… ] Bury Me Here" (Shearsman Books, 1997)

*"Passing Measures", Selected poems 1966-1996 (Carcanet, 2000)

*"Messenger Street" (Poetical Histories, 2001) "note": this is a pamphlet containing four elegies for the poet Douglas Oliver

*"The Dance at Mociu" (Shearsman, 2003)

*"Alstonefield: a poem" (Carcanet, 2003)

Further reading

*Riley, Peter. "The Creative Moment of the Poem." In "Poets on Writing: Britain, 1970-1991", ed. Denise Riley, 92-113. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1992.
*"The Poetry of Peter Riley" ("The Gig": issue 4/5, Toronto: November 1999/March 2000) — devoted to studies of Riley’s poetry, plus an interview and bibliography. ISBN 0-9685294-4-5
*Keith Tuma, "Fishing by Obstinate Isles: Modern and Postmodern British Poetry and American Readers". Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern UP, 1998. (Contains an essay on "Excavations".)


External links

* [ April Eye] - Peter Riley's website
* [ Author Page] at the "British Electronic Poetry Centre"
* [ Peter Riley in Conversation with Keith Tuma] interview at Jacket Magazine website
* [ Mark Scroggins review of "Distant Points"]
* [ Peter Riley's 'Excavations' reviewed] at "Intercapillary Space"
* [ Peter Riley Feature at] A search on the Homepage will link to poems, biography, and a dialogue between Peter Riley and Spilios Argyropoulos, "The origins and trajectories of English avant garde poetry in the last 40 years" ::

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  • Riley, Peter — (1940 )    Born in Stockport, Cheshire, he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and the universities of Keele and Sussex, and has taught at the University of Odense, Denmark. Since 1975 he has lived as a freelance writer, English teacher and… …   British and Irish poets

  • Riley, John — (1937 1978)    Born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire, he served in the Royal Air Force from 1956 to 1958, graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1961, then worked as a teacher in the Cambridge area. There he became associated with the… …   British and Irish poets

  • Riley 12/4 — Kestrel (1935) Der Riley 12/4 ist ein Mittelklassefahrzeug, das Riley 1934 herausbrachte. Die Limousinen haben einen 4 Zylinder OHV Reihenmotor mit 1496 ccm, der 51 bhp (38 kW) entwickelt. Dies war genauso viel wie bei den größeren Riley 15/6.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Riley 15/6 — Adelphi (1935) Der Riley 15/6 ist ein Fahrzeug der oberen Mittelklasse, das Riley 1934 als Ergänzung zu den kleineren Modellen herausbrachte. Alle Modelle haben einen obengesteuerten 6 Zylinder Reihenmotor mit 1726 ccm Hubraum und einer Leistung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Riley 2 1/2 — Big Four (1937 1939) Der Riley 2 1/2 ist ein Fahrzeug der oberen Mittelklasse, das Riley 1937 als Ergänzung zu den kleineren 1 1/2 Modellen und Nachfolger des glücklosen Riley 8/90 herausbrachte. Er hat einen obengesteuerten 4 Zylinder… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Riley 4/68 — Riley 4/72 (1965) Die Modelle Riley 4/68 und Riley 4/72 wurden von der British Motor Corporation von April 1959 bis Ende der 1960er Jahre hergestellt. Die Karosserien waren mit den von Pininfarina entworfenen Modellen Austin A55 / A60, MG… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Riley 4/72 — (1965) Die Modelle Riley 4/68 und Riley 4/72 wurden von der British Motor Corporation von April 1959 bis Ende der 1960er Jahre hergestellt. Die Karosserien waren mit den von Pininfarina entworfenen Modellen Austin A55 / A60, MG Magnette Mark III …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Riley Merlin — Riley 1 1/2 Merlin Der Riley 1 1/2 ist ein Mittelklassefahrzeug, das Riley 1936 als Nachfolger des Modells 12/4 herausbrachte. Alle Ausführungen haben einen obengesteuerten 4 Zylinder Reihenmotor mit 1496 ccm Hubraum und einer Leistung von 51 bhp …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Peter the Hermit — (died July 8 1115 in Neufmoutier by Huy) was a priest of Amiens and a key figure during the First Crusade.Before 1096According to Anna Comnena, he had attempted to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before 1096, but was prevented by the Turks from… …   Wikipedia

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