Red Light Blues, by Jeremy Reed


Here’s Niall McDevitt’s review of Jeremy Reed’s Red Light Blues (just published by the Society Club) on IT.

The famously prolific poet Jeremy Reed once claimed that you could pave London with the books he’s written. It’s a disarming thought. For a long time now a devoted readership has been walking those Reed-paved streets, illustrated, laminated, titled: Patron Saint of Eyeliner, This is How You Disappear, Piccadilly Bongo etc. One of the capital’s outstanding poets, he is a London specialist. Though his imagination can travel north, south, east and west, he is most often to be found in central London, as the opening section of his latest book attests, called ‘Central’. It would be fair to describe him as the poet laureate of Soho, an outre-bohemian successor to the legends of past history and living memory who have always populated the zone.

Red Light Blues is a true Soho book in that its subject matter is Soho, it was written in the cafes of Soho, and is published in Soho by bookshop-cum-cocktail bar The Society Club. It’s a fine production. The title, and its jacket image, evoke the melancholy of the red light district, where bulbs magnetise punters, but where sensitive souls identify with a sexual underclass, not just the models of the stairwells but the rent boys of more subterranean demesnes. The first poem ‘Meeting with Francis Bacon’ is awash with male prostitutes, atmospheric rain and exotic alcohols. The great painter is there like a debauched Virgil guiding the younger poet through the circles of a neon inferno. This is not realism, but something concentrated, somewhere between baroque and expressionist.

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