Peter Reading was born in Liverpool, England in July of 1946. As a young man, he was educated at Alsop High School, a community school in Walton, Liverpool. He went on to study art, and in particular painting, at Liverpool College of Art. A school which is known for the graduates, John and Cynthia Lennon, the poet Maurice Cockrill, and musician Stuart Sutcliffe.
Following his education, he stayed in the area and began a short stint teaching art history at Liverpool College. He only stayed at the college for two years before moving on to work in Shropshire. In the same year that he left his teaching position, he published his first collection of poetry, Water and Waste. It was followed by For the Municipality in 1974.
He remained in Shropshire for twenty-two years, working as a weigh-bridge operator at an animal feed mill. His time as an employee there was not without conflict, especially after the mill was sold to new owners. He was often chastised, and then finally fired, for not wearing a specified uniform while on duty.
The long periods of time during which he worked independently at the mill gave him ample time to devote his thoughts to his literary pursuits. Over these twenty-two years, he published a remarkably prolific, sixteen more volumes of poetry. Some of these include Nothing for Anyone, Final Demands, and Evagatory. Soon after losing his job, he moved to Little Stretton where he suffered in poverty. Until he gained the assistance of the American Lannan Foundation.
In 1997 his collection, Work in Regress, was shortlisted but did not win, the T.S. Eliot Prize.
But two years later, he was awarded a one-year Lannan writing residency in Texas. He was the first writer to ever hold this position and would also go on to twice win the Lannan Award for Poetry in 1990 and 2004. Reading continued to publish until his death in November of 2011.
Today, Reading is considered one of the most innovative poets to emerge from England in the 20th century, with a gift for passionate, humorous, and challenging writing.