Martha Sprackland, editor of Cake, took a critical eye to my collection Human Shade in the latest review for Sabotage. She made deeply insightful observations, the likes of which could only have come from reading closely and thinking carefully about the work. For this, I am honoured. And because this collection is so achingly personal, it feels a bit as though she peered into my core.
Here analysis of the imagery, for example, articulates unconscious forces at play during the writing and assembling of the manuscript:
Throughout, Peake manages the subject of his son’s death both dextrously and eloquently. The line ‘I lash my faith to the mast of a boat’ (‘Elegy for the News’) is entirely appropriate for a collection in which the tidelines of grief are oceanic, dynamic, ever-changing, lapping up against the edges of the poems yet crucially avoiding the spill into sentimentality. Indicative of the poet’s skill is the way Peake is able to address his grief; in a poem about his son he is controlled, silent, ‘I disown the alphabet / unsaying each letter’ (‘To Friends Not Knowing What To Say’), whilst a poem about a road sign at the Mexican border is allowed to contain the line about the child ‘who rises as though winged in a blaze of light’ (‘Road Sign on Interstate 5’). The poems are shared, spliced, images from certain pieces belonging to others, yet all coalescing on the child, and all the better for their displacement.
Gratifying, too, is that my struggles against tidy conclusions and the shorthand vocabulary of psychoanalysis seem to have paid off, at least for this reader, who writes, “The collection ends on the promise of hope without the trite self-help conclusion too often found in collections assembled around a death.”
Naturally, there are parts she liked less in the work as a whole, and which I will consider as a writer. Overall, though, it is deeply encouraging to know that someone considering the work this carefully found their attention repaid, and it is a pleasure to read their many discoveries so beautifully phrased.