The Knowledge Gets a Grip (and a Shearing)

London GripD A Prince takes firm hold of The Knowledge, examining constituent parts and unifying threads, in a new review for London Grip.

She calls it “complex”, full of “subtle questioning”, which is what she likes best. She also praises the new format of the Nine Arches book itself, concluding, “Peake is lucky with his publisher  —  and they are lucky to have him on their list.” I do feel lucky indeed.

You can read the full review on London Grip.

Whereas Prince found the middle section least in tune with the rest, Geoff Sawers hacks away at the final section of the book in a brief write-up for Shearsman Review. He tempers his dislike of the London poems with the idea that, “Poetry is not about averages; it’s more like the High Jump, where your best one counts.” “Last Gasp”, for him, is that one that counts, and “soars”.

As reviews and comments roll in, both in public and private, it would seem that I have written a book that is one part a kind of poetry anthology penned by my multiple selves, one part Rorschach test for its readership. Some days it feels like everyone’s an editor (and they don’t always agree), yet on a more positive note, it would seem that there is truly something for everyone in this book.

What do you think? If you’ve been provoked by The Knowledge, I’d love to read your thoughts in a user review on Goodreads or Amazon.


So Long, Mannahatta!

“New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town! / The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.”
-“On The Town”, sung by Frank Sinatra

So a book tour that began in the medieval English village of Much Wenlock ends in New York.

We capped off a feasting-our-senses-through-Manhattan city break with a trip to Walt Whitman’s birthplace on Long Island. I gave my “Tactics for Sneaky Poets” workshop to a receptive and talented local group, and was given a private tour of the house and very room where Uncle Walt was born, before taking to the stage.

What a pleasure and privilege it was to read with Peter Cole, who drew parallels between Whitman’s transcendentalist philosophy and ancient Jewish mysticism. He read poems from the depths of his own multitudes as well. Afterward, we answered questions from the audience about translation, displacement, and the necessity of the creative act.

I also marked the fourth anniversary of moving to England while here, surrounded by New Yorkers and ancient Egyptian artefacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York feels in many ways like a midpoint — both geographically and culturally — between my native rural California and adopted London. Yet it is entirely its own place as well. I will be sorry to say goodbye.

I won’t be sorry to get back to a radiator I can control, however, as all the apartment buildings seem to keep them on full-tilt until the end of May. As the street below is waking up, the cast-iron pipes beside my bed are banging furiously, transforming our tiny West Village apartment into a dry sauna.

Val and I have stripped off completely, lounging around like Adam and Eve. We have tasted The Big Apple. I have a feeling we will be back for more.


Dynamite and Its (Poetic) Packaging

“A short poem need not be small.”
-Marvin Bell

dynamiteOn the plane from London to New York, I took in three stunning debuts: Mona Arshi’s sensual, wistful, and surreal poetry; Sarah Fletcher’s imaginative, accomplished, and wry personae; Anja König’s incisive, keenly observed notes on loss — and wrote brief reviews of each for HuffPost Books.

You can read the full reviews here.


How to Lie With Statistics (and Poetry)

“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant”
-Emily Dickinson

It’s pretty easy, really. Take a four-thousand-year-old universal human tradition — say, poetry — and use statistical data within a relatively tiny segment — say, the last ten years in America — to extrapolate into sweeping conclusions.

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, I call out this tactic employed by a Washington Post article to once again predict poetry’s imminent extinction (this time with helpful graphs).

This of course prompted a friendly debate on Twitter with some mathematical philosophers about poetry’s inherent lack of truth due to its freedom from alethic modality (as you would expect).

Still, I contend that it is easier to lie with statistics than poetry, since one engages statistics expecting objective truth, and often discovers subjective misinterpretation; whereas one enters poetry expecting subjectivity, but often discovers something universal. So much of deception, after all, depends on confidence.

You can read the article, and leave a comment, on the Huffington Post.


The Book Launch Tour Continues

What a pleasure it was to launch my debut full-length collection The Knowledge alongside Jo Bell, UK Canal Laureate, who launched her second collection Kith. Coincidence of timing brought us together, but complimentary styles and mutual respect has made touring together a delight.

IMG_4536We started in the small Shropshire village of Much Wenlock, birthplace of the Olympics, a place steeped in ancient Mercian history and happily overrun one weekend each year by poets. We read in a modern theatre space to an appreciative and full audience, many of whom were proud supporters of Jo’s excellent 52 project.

The next day we spoke on a panel with Jane Commane, our publisher at Nine Arches Press, and Simon Thirsk, her mentor from Bloodaxe Books. We dug into the details of editing a collection, peeling back the curtain on this sometimes hidden art. Re-living the past year of working on the manuscript with Jane only deepened my appreciation for her artful support.

IMG_4567We then drove down to Cheltenham for an evening reading in a warm, friendly pub. Again the audience was full and receptive, as well as keen to buy our new books. Several of us set the world to rights afterward over good Thai curry, reflecting on what a strange way around it is to get to know someone first by their poetry — that being often such a deeply intimate route — and then to get to know them socially afterward.

Valerie and I trundled back to North Hertfordshire today to draw breath, do laundry, and repack as we are off to New York tomorrow. I will be giving a workshop and reading at Walt Whitman’s birthplace this coming Saturday.

The book is launched. The book is launching. Houston, we have liftoff.


Quadrapheme Names The Knowledge a Book of the Month

quadraphemeEleanor Franzen, managing editor of Quadrapheme, has picked The Knowledge as one of their best books in April. Particularly notable is that it makes their cut alongside four accomplished prose writers. (Take that, cruelest month.)

Quadrapheme is a totally independent literature review site, which receives no funding from either publishers or  the British Arts Council, so ostensibly they say what they like (and don’t) as they please. Franzen notes the collection’s, “mindfulness of the human place within a network of relationships in the natural world, the consequences and responsibilities of agency.”

The whole site is crisp, smart, and well worth revisiting.


Four Poems from The Knowledge Online

We Wanted to be WritersCheryl Olsen of the We Wanted to be Writers blog is kindly running four poems from The Knowledge, including the eponymous piece itself, on their website. While some of these poems are previously published, most have never been on the web before.

So, if you have been keen to take a peek inside the cover, now’s your chance.

Many thanks to the WW2BW crew for putting these poems in front of their readership.