Silk Over Steel: First Review of The Knowledge

Good things happen on Twitter.

I have Gail Borrow to thank for introducing me (and my work) to Rachel Stirling via this recent tweet exchange.

I scrambled an electronic review copy of my forthcoming book The Knowledge, and she read deeply into the poems.

The poet moves from couplet through the numbered stanzas to free verse, and back again, with confidence and grace. The pace is impressive, largely because the poems are a joy of enjambment. … The work is elegant and strong. If it is silk then it is silk over steel.

You can read Rachel’s full review, and many equally astute others, on stirlingwriter.com.

Also, if you write reviews in print or online and would like to peruse your own copy of The Knowledge, please do get in touch.


London Poems in The Knowledge

I am currently on the other side of the world from London, flying from Sydney to Hong Kong.

Yet London has been my residence and preoccupation for the past several years, culminating in my forthcoming debut full-length collection of poetry, The Knowledge.

Many of the poems are set in a specific place in London. So, as supplement to a more traditional table of contents, what follows is an interactive Google map of poem titles, including links to online version of the poems where applicable.

<a href="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=zFGf_lwPvijI.knpShiwKF_I8"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2015/01/london-poems.png" alt="London Map" class="alignnone" style="width: 100%; max-width: 800px; min-width: 320px; border: 0;"/><br/>Click here to view the map</a>

The Space it Might Take

The Space it Might Take (Highgate Poets, 2014)I am pleased to have four poems, including the eponymous poem from my forthcoming collection The Knowledge in The Space it Might Take, the 26th biennial anthology of the Highgate Poets.

It is a pleasure to see these poems beside some of the strongest work over the last two years from each member of this unique North London poetry collective. In fact, I think it may be their best volume yet.

Hats off to those involved in its painstaking production. You can get your copy at the Highgate Poets website.


Reaching the Next Generation with Poetry

Edwin in the RainI never thought of myself as a children’s poet.

Yet it was thanks to Dr. Seuss that I began to delight in language itself, and I believe this early contact was crucial to my subsequent love affair with poetry. The tradition continues today, with excellent children’s poetry books coming out in print like In the Land of the Giants by George Szirtes (Salt, 2012). Yet I wonder if reaching children where we increasingly find them — affixed to the glow of a touch-screen device, with the whole of the Internet just a tap away — can be just as effective to instil a love of words and sounds.

As I explained at the award ceremony for our film-poem “Buttons”, this was part of the impetus for the film’s creation. Video has taken on a new life online. The next generation is growing up on YouTube in the same way that we grew up on radio and television.

Our film-poem was a labour of love — both in its conception as a collaboration between my pianist wife Valerie and me, and in its dedication to our young nephew in Australia. The response that night in the Purcell room, and the following day during an interview and screening of this and other children’s film-poems at the Southbank Centre, as well as the reverberations throughout social media as parent-friends pulled their children close to watch it together — has been heartening indeed.

Continuing in this spirit, I have decided to make a storybook version of the poem available to download for free on both iOS and Android devices. My hope is that parents will be able to read the poem and watch the film with their children in the same way that I turned the dog-eared pages of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with my own mum so long ago.

You can download the book and watch the film right here.

Download for iOS/MacDownload for Android



Three Views of The Silence Teacher

“…what is poetry for, if not to represent the breaking of hearts?”

-Fiona Moore, author of The Only Reason for Time

Assyrian SphinxThe Silence Teacher has the honour of appearing in what is, sadly, the final issue of Sphinx that will carry poetry pamphlet reviews. This online guardian of the the poetry pamphlet has presided with dignity over its cause for some time, and although its other activities will continue, the reviews will be missed.

In this double-barrelled review, Gill Andrews is drawn to the narrative poems, and finds them interesting, affecting, and precise. Marcia Menter considers the seven years of the pamphlet’s making “time enough to shape the raw emotion into a space as quietly resonant as a stone chapel.” She wishes for a bit more joy overall, but concedes that the work is entitled to its intensity. Both reviewers draw out unique and interesting observations, such as the use of fish to convey a sense of being underwater. You can read the full reviews in Sphinx 42 online.

Fiona Moore is no stranger to grief. Her pamphlet The Only Reason for Time, which rightly found its way to the Guardian Best Books of 2013, is a tender and subtle portrayal of the aftermath of losing a spouse. As a fan of her work, I value her thoughts particularly.

She notes how the vestiges of formal verse haunt even the free verse poems in The Silence Teacher, how there is playfulness in the midst of silence’s weight, and spots layers of metaphor in the animal poems. Just to know that these poems were so carefully read by a fellow traveller on this road is a comfort somehow. You can read the full extent of her thoughtful perspective here.

So, this slim, staple-bound creature continues to take on a life of its own.


The Silence Teacher Reviewed in The North

The North, No. 51

“…fresh sweat and sweet / Mortality, he found them on the North”

-Thom Gunn, “At the Back of the North Wind”

Paul Stephenson reviewed The Silence Teacher, along with three other pamphlets from Poetry Salzburg, in the current issue of The North. He begins, “If all poetry is essentially about love and loss then there is little need to read beyond Robert Peake’s beautiful and heart-breaking pamphlet, The Silence Teacher”.

He quotes from the book in summary of its themes, and picks up on the “interplay between love and hate” sometimes manifesting in “quiet violence” at various points in the collection. Indeed, sometimes sadness and anger, love and hate, have much in common. He concludes, “These highly-crafted, long-considered poems have so much emotional resonance, from a father who will not teach his son hello, whose son ‘came in waving goodbye'”.

Paul also gives a friendly mention to the Transatlantic Poetry on Air project, and treats the other pamphlets in this series with equally brisk and enticing insights. I look forward to reading the rest of The North, and reading and re-reading my fellow Salzburgian pamphleteers.

Single issues and subscriptions to The North are available from The Poetry Business.


The Silence Teacher Reviewed in Rattle

RattleRattle is one of my favourite US literary journals, and Michelle Bitting is one of my favourite US poets, so to have her treat my newest short collection, The Silence Teacher, in their online reviews series is particularly meaningful for me.

As Michelle says, we were together in the first workshop of the first residency of my first semester in the Pacific University MFA in Writing programme. Reflecting on that time, which still plays in my mind like a black-and-white film, I realise how far I have come in my travels with grief, and how essential writing has been throughout.

Michelle makes astute observations about the arc of the work throughout her review, calling it, “a heroic account of a father’s journey dealing with death.”

Read the full review on the Rattle website.