A Poetic A-Z of Reading

Logo for Two Rivers PressThis exhibition celebrates a variety of creative activity through the lens of Reading town as busy commuter hub. It brings together manuscripts, books, maps, pamphlets, artworks and a number of poetic alphabets from the University of Reading Special Collections and private collections. The exhibition is one of two organized to coincide with the first Reading Poetry Festival, 5-9 June 2013.  This exhibition was curated by Natalie Pollard and Peter Robinson, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Reading.

1: Poetry Publishing in Reading 1951-2013

Cabinet 1 illustrates the range of poetry publication taking place in Reading over the last 60 years. The Arts School, University of Reading, published handset volumes for over a decade during the 1950s. Whiteknights Press volumes were designed in Typography through the 1970s and 80s. Two Rivers Press, founded in the following decade, continues to publish poetry in collaboration with artists and typographers.

2: The Case of Two Reading Poems

In Cabinet 2 Reading is the inspiration for two short poems written by Peter Robinson during 2007, the year of his settling in the town. The first, with its illustration by Sally Castle, was inspired by an electricity substation on Erleigh Road. The second, again illustrated by Castle, was in part prompted by an alphabet painted on the wall of St Peter's School, Earley.

3. Poetic A-Zs: Road, River, Rail

Cabinet 3 offers a sequence of 'guides' to literary Reading. Here, local history, architecture and green spaces bear traces of different places, literatures, and sources. Poetic re-interpretations of Arthur Rimbaud and Eugene Montale draw lines between Glasgow, Paris, Milan and Reading. The printed page is juxtaposed with poems on walls and stones; sculpture with poetry and etching. Archival materials and letters move into surprising orientations as poetry takes shape as map, photograph, advertising, graffiti and visual art.

The exhibition will be on display at the University Library from 7 March until 28 May 2013.

List of exhibits

Cabinet 1: Poetry Publishing in Reading 1951-2013

1. Books handset in the School of Art, University of Reading between 1951 and 1960

2. Books published by Whiteknights Press and produced by the Department of Typography and Communication Design, University of Reading, during the 1970s and 1980s

3. Books published by Two Rivers Press, Reading, since 1994

On loan from a private collection and courtesy of the Department of Typography and Communication Design archive

Cabinet 2: The Case of Two Reading Poems

1. The electricity substation in Erleigh Road, artwork by Sally Castle

2. Manuscript draft of 'Graffiti Service' by Peter Robinson

3. 'Graffiti Service' from English Nettles and Other Poems by Peter Robinson (Two Rivers Press: 2010)

4. St Peter's School, Earley, artwork by Sally Castle

5. Two manuscript drafts of 'In the Playground' by Peter Robinson

6. 'In the Playground' from English Nettles and Other Poems by Peter Robinson (Two Rivers Press: 2010)

All on loan from a private collection 

Top of A-Z Cabinet:

1. Type provided by the Department of Typography and Communication Design, University of Reading

2. Little but often was designed by Ronald King and written by Richard Price (London: Circle Press, 2007). Price's poetry appears in Reading Poetry: An Anthology, see item 10.

On loan from a private collection

3. Kurt Schwitters's typographic poems, published in 1922, are reproduced from Poems Performances Pieces Prose Plays Poetics, ed. and trans. Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris (Philadelphia: Temple University Press 1993).

University Library ---709.43 SCH


4. Simon Armitage's volume was published by Smith/ Doorstop in 2011.  On loan from a private collection

5. The photograph shows 'Beckstone', a poem by Armitage, and lettercarving by Pip Hall, from the Stanza Stones project (2012). As part of imove's cultural olympiad in Yorkshire, Hall carved 7 of Armitage's poems into rocks in the Southern Pennines. Hall is also the designer of poetry books published by Two Rivers Press.

6. The Shell Guide poster of the Berkshire Ridgeway and Icknield Way (1965) is one of the 'Shell County Guides', which began with Betjeman's Cornwall. David Gentleman was commissioned by Shell to produce the poster. Museum of English Rural Life 2010/55

Betjeman's poems were illustrated by David Gentleman (London: John Murray, 1997).  On loan from a private collection

7. Dunmore poem is in Charms Against Jackals, ed. Adam Stout and Geoff Sawers (Reading: Two Rivers Press, 2004). On loan from a private collection

8. Adam Sowan's book Abattoirs Road to Zinzan Street was published by Two Rivers in 2004. TWO RIVERS PRESS COLLECTION-- 005

9. Walks in Berkshire (Bourne End: Spurbooks, 1976); Rambling for Pleasure around Reading. On loan from a private collection

For further details about Schwitters's poems see item 3.


11. 'A Tourist's Alphabet', and 'Reading Between the Lines' from Mr Punch's Railway Book, by Phil May, George du Maurier, John Leech, et al (London: Amalgamated Press, [1900s?]). - MUSEUM OF ENGLISH RURAL LIFE LIBRARY 6126-MIS

12. Donald Davie, 'Oxfordshire' in Three for Water Music (London: Routledge, 1974). On loan from a private collection. 'Berkshire' in Three for Water Music (Manchester: Carcanet, 1981). University Library STORE--49127

13. Ian House's poem about Lawrence's lost manuscript appears in Reading Poetry: An Anthology (Two Rivers Press, 2011). On loan from a private collection

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (London: Cape, 1935). FINZI BOOK ROOM -- 22D/48

14. Hardy, 'Midnight on the Great Western', in Moments of Vision (London: Macmillan, 1917). University Library STORE-09131.

15. The image of the train crash appears in The Railway Journey by Schivelbusch, trans. by Anselm Hollo. University Library Folio -385.09 SCH. Hollo's poem is taken from Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: Selected Poems (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2001). On loan from a private collection


16. Arthur Rimbaud, The Drunken Boat, translated by Geoff Sawers; illustrated by Peter Hay (Reading: Two Rivers Press 1999). TWO RIVERS PRESS COLLECTION -003.

Samuel Beckett typescript translation of Drunken Boat: A Translation of Rimbaud's Poem Le bateau Ivre, edited and introduced by James Knowlson and Felix Leakey (1976).


17. Edwin Morgan, trans. Eugene Montale. 'La Trota Nera' in Poems from Eugenio Montale (School of Art, University of Reading, 1960). RESERVE--851.912-MON

Morgan, 1 letter and 2 postcards penned by Edwin Morgan between 1959-60 to Ian Fletcher at University of Reading, discussing publication of Morgan's translation of Montale's Poems. UNIVERSITY OF READING MS 2002

18. Michael Zand, 'Pang' a poem in 4 vols. Pamphlets.

On loan from a private collection

Adrian Blamires, The Pang Valley (Two Rivers Press, 2010). TWO RIVERS PRESS COLLECTION -062

Where Two Rivers Meet was designed by Pip Hall and published by Two Rivers Press in 1994. TWO RIVERS PRESS COLLECTION --004

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