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



Poem in Rattle #44

Rattle #44I received my electronic version of Rattle #44 today. My poem “La Campagna, London, Friday Night” appears in it, alongside poems from fellow Pacific University MFA Alumni Daniel Bohnhorst and Kathleen Diane Nolan as well as an incisive political poem by Transatlantic Poetry’s own Janice D. Soderling.

Rattle remains one of my favourite US journals–accessible but thought provoking, enjoyable but complex. Editor Tim Green takes risks, which means that invariably I can find a poem that I adore and another that I can hardly stand all within the same issue. He continues to push the envelope with a new weekly initiative featuring poems written in response to current events on the Rattle website. This week’s poem is a hard-hitting response to recent news and online conversations about violence against women.

You can order Rattle #44 or subscribe online via their website.


Jellied Eels (Film-Poem)

I had a great time reading poems at the Poetry Cafe in Soho tonight as part of the Southbank Poetry Competition awards. Valerie and I also collaborated to turn my third-prize-winning poem, “Jellied Eels”, into the following film-poem.

<a href="http://vimeo.com/84169213"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2014/05/jellied-eels-300x168.jpg" alt="jellied-eels" class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-6013"/><br/>Click here to play the video</a>

Jellied Eels

Read the text of the poem at the South Bank Poetry Magazine website.

Process Notes

I recorded the poem through a pair of walkie-talkies to achieve the desired vocal effect. When then paired Valerie’s piano composition with morse code sounds. With so much going on auditorily, and because the poem itself is quite visual, we opted for a simple pan-out on time-lapse footage of light on water, which ends with a serpentine blur-cut that seemed to converge upon and reinforce the ending image of the poem quite well.


Poem in Fjords Review

Fjords Review 2.3I received my contributor’s copy of Fjords Review vol. 2, issue 3 today. It is a lovely perfect-bound volume offering such delicacies as Sarah Palin erasure poems and an arresting series of photographs like the one on the cover. My poem “Color Study” should feel right at home.

I was pleased to send work to editor John Gosslee after his thoughtful and perceptive review of The Silence Teacher. He has since also become an excellent host in our Transatlantic Poetry on Air broadcast series, having introduced and interviewed Randi Ward and Jo Bell just last night. It’s a small world, after all.

Fjords Review is available from their website and from a variety of good book stores across the US. They obviously also ship worldwide.


Poem Online at Amaryillis

Tea or Coffee?I have a new poem in the weekly online zine Amaryllis.

I met one of the editors, Hilda Sheehan, at our reading at the Troubadour last year, and discovered a certain overlap between my more quirky poems and her more tame ones. You can decide for yourself which this is. I am also delighted to be taking part in the Swindon Festival of Poetry in October, which she heroically organises.

“Couples Therapy” online at Amaryllis.

<a href="https://soundcloud.com/peakepoetics/couples-therapy" target="_blank">Listen to "Couples Therapy" read aloud.</a>


Reading “Wednesday” by Marvin Bell

“And it was at that age… poetry arrived / in search of me”

-Pablo Neruda, “Poetry”

Poems can represent a turning point. Reading Marvin Bell’s “Wednesday” was one such moment for me. I wrote about what it means to me, and why it really matters, for the Prague-based online journal B O D Y. I consider it the anthem of every working poet, and it was to this anthem that I marched forward through grief, back into poetry, back into life.

Read THE POEM: Robert Peake on Marvin Bell’s “Wednesday”.

<a href="https://soundcloud.com/peakepoetics/wednesday" target="_blank">Listen to "Wednesday" by Marvin Bell read aloud.</a>


Snowblindness (Film-Poem)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/87357326">Click here to watch the video</a>

Snowblindness

It is hard to know how I got here,
now that we cut the sled dogs loose,
and went our separate ways for help,
hard as pack ice in the footsteps
I crunch into, wondering whose they are,
following a herd of anxious commuters
doubtless on their way to warmth,
raising what look like pitch forks
against the white buildings ahead,
their black tongues crying, “Murder”
as I laugh into the snow-licked wind,
glad not to be the foreman on that rig,
glad to see the thousand-pair kind eyes
blinking out in front of me, soft-nosed
welcome party, parting ways as I approach
the city centre, flushed and sweating,
under this maniacal sun, I skip forward,
breathing heavily, pulling off my clothes.

Process Notes

I found a film of reindeer in the archive.org 35mm Stock Footage collection and, after watching it several times, I began to develop a narrative about a man lost in the Arctic Circle. The poem came from there, followed by the video and effects editing and finally the music and sound effects.