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.
On 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.
He takes firm hold of two key threads in the collection — loss of innocence, and relating to London as an outsider — through deft commentary and concrete example. He calls the work “ambitious” and “cunning” and decides “one of Peake’s stand-out qualities is his ability to bring his poems to an arresting close”. Most encouragingly, he upholds that despite being written by an outsider/in-betweener, “British readers are rewarded with a view of London that encourages reassessment.”
On Friday, I attended a small private London launch for the second edition of a book by my friend and former boss, David Allen. His methodology has been the key to creating the space in my life for poetry amidst a dynamic career in technology and management consulting, and a generally full trans-Atlantic life.
Having sold more than two million copies of his Getting Things Done book in nearly 30 languages, I jokingly asked over lunch for any tips on avoiding hand cramp when signing great numbers of books at once. Pre-orders for my debut full-length poetry collection The Knowledge have, after all, been rolling in.
That afternoon, I got the good news that books had arrived from the printer, and whizzed up to meet my publisher Jane in Milton Keynes, the preferred halfway point between where we both live. Despite the appearance of Milton in the name, I find Milton Keynes to be one of the least poetic cities in Britain — essentially England’s answer to Orange County. And so it was in a coffee chain store inside a glass-and-steel mall that I first laid hands on this beautiful book.
What can I say? It is a lovely object. Small but important details that I couldn’t have gleaned from the PDF galley — like the way in which facing-page poems interrelate thanks to expert pagination — surprised and impressed me. The entire experience of working with Jane has had a ring of rightness about it, and the finished product feels good in so many way, including tactilely — from the French flaps to the sturdy off-white pages to the matte-finish cover.
I am looking forward to my launch tour next week — Wenlock, Cheltenham, then New York. What a pleasure it will be to read from this lovingly-produced new book.
Robert Peake’s The Knowledge (Nine Arches Press) is a subtle, tender collection whose mixture of narrative and descriptive images inexorably draws the reader on to (occasionally painful) revelation.
Peake’s great strength is that he knows what death is, and is not afraid to make us look at it. The fact that he leads us there slowly, moving with precise and careful gentleness, shows that (as a writer) he is kind, as well as skilled.
Herself a poet deeply concerned with social justice, and committed the possibilities of form, she takes evident delight certain poems along the way (such as the crown of sonnets near the end), and is unafraid to voice her dislike of others.
Overall, she seems to have enjoyed the journey, and points out many small but important details along the way.
The book ships worldwide, at reasonable rates, at the end of April. It contains poems begun in my MFA in Writing programme as well as many written in response to the remarkable past four years living in and near London. Nine Arches Press won “Most Innovative Publisher” in the most recent voter-picked Saboteur Awards and working with them to bring this book to light has been an absolute pleasure.