"The Song of Lunch" is a narrative poem following a middle-aged publisher as he has lunch in a fondly-remembered Italian restaurant in Soho with a former lover.
The excitement of the opening, with the publisher's sense of freedom and excitement at the lunch date, is gradually replaced with disillusionment, regret, and unpleasant truths.
"The Song of Lunch" is readable and entertaining, both in terms of its story and its language. The awkward conversation between the lovers is horribly real, and as the poem progresses more and more is revealed about the main protaganist, so that one feels one knows him to an uncomfortable extent.
All the details of the restaurant and Soho are carefully rendered, for example in the following description of its former waiting staff:
Massimo's pirate crew,
as he privately thought of them;
some of whose names he knew
while knowing nothing of their lives
beyond the act -
resentful, brisk, droll -
each brought to the table.
Reid also has a beautiful and striking way of describing even ordinary things, such as the concept of travelling on the eye in the following lines, when the publisher's mind starts to wander in the restaurant:
From that thought idly
on a ride of the eye
around the room -
the bustle, the hubbub -
he travels to the next.
The poem doesn't have a rigid rhyme scheme, instead it relies on half rhymes which create a pleasing effect, catching the reader by surprise and making them linger on certain lines.
This is a work I can imagine reading again and again, savouring the descriptions, and shuddering at the pathos (and bathos). From the exhilaration of the opening lines to the shocking final word, this poem is a triumph.
Finally the publisher, CB editions, has produced a beautiful volume, a matt brown paperback with mustard endpapers.