2015 was the year of The Knowledge for me, as well as a spate of film-poems, collaborations, and trips to new places. Here’s a brief look back at the salient moments from each month.
| January: Nine Years of Love|
I reflect on nine years since the birth and death of our son, in the year when my maternal grandfather and spiritual teacher also pass on. The conclusion is simply this: our world is in need of love.
| February: Namesake (Film-Poem Online)|
A paean to my namesake/nemesis, this bit of machinima plays with identity in the digital age using parallax techniques. It was both painstaking and fun to make.
| March: Sneak Peek at The Knowledge|
Excitement builds as Nine Arches Press publishes a few poems from the book online.
| April: The Knowledge Arrives|
I drive up to Milton Keynes to receive my first batch of author copies of the book. A surreal and wonderful moment on many levels.
| May: Reading and Workshop at Walt Whitman Birthplace|
I delight in setting foot in New York for the first time (!) to give a half-day workshop and evening reading at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
| June: "Mnemosyne's Tango: Poetry, Film, and the Dance of Memory"|
A brief essay in which I lay out what fascinates me most about the film-poem genre.
| July: Ledbury Poetry Festival|
I take in Ledbury, catching up with poets like George Wallace, George Szirtes, and Daniel Sluman in various cafes and pubs.
| August: The Essence of Instinct (Film-Poem Online)|
Hot on the heels of the release of Google's new Deep Dream technology, I give it a try as the basis for a new film-poem.
| September: Letting the Robin out of the Bag|
Nine Arches Press puts my poem "Robin" on their promotional canvas bag. Beautifully done, it becomes the basis for a few Christmas presents this year.
| October: World Literature Today Does The Knowledge|
Piotr Florczyk takes a deep dive into The Knowledge, and comes up with a few pearls.
| November: The Knowledge Goes Pining for the Fjords|
Abby E. Murray sucks the marrow from this book. To know even one reader has read the book this carefully--let alone a poet I admire as much as Abby--is a rare privilege indeed.
| December: Two Poems, and a Review of The Knowledge, in Poetry Salzburg Review|
Ian Watson gives a ringing endorsement of The Knowledge, concluding, "The problem with The Knowledge is that there are just too many striking images, too many poems to cite. Just go out and buy it."
Roll on 2016!
“If you don’t read Robert Peake’s The Knowledge as a taking-up-again of existential conversation, you’re doing it wrong.” Thus begins Abby E. Murray’s confident and considered review of my new collection for Fjords Review. It is a gift to be read at all, and clear that Abby has spent quality time with the book and her own reflections on it.
I read the review aloud to my wife, Valerie, who said that it brought her new insight into certain poems. (This from someone who practically knows them all by heart.) Abby ends with some thoughts on the poetic confraternitas (as Miłosz put it) that transcends geographic distance.
I am about to get on a plane to visit family for Thanksgiving, and meet a new nephew. I couldn’t think of a better send-off.
You can read the full review on the Fjords website.
As the year comes to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood. Having compiled a list of the more than 350 poets I have mentioned on my website since I began writing about poetry in 2003, I was curious to discover which poets I have mentioned most often in the last ten years.
What follows is that list of poets — most alive, some dead; most writing in English, some not; many I have met, some I won’t and never will. Click on the name or image for a brief summary of who each one is and and what they mean to me, and to read what I have written about them over the years.
I have been enjoying my contributor’s copy of Harpur Palate on the slightly bumpy and very delayed train to Manchester this evening.
I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with the journal, but apparently it has been around for some time, published out of Binghamton University in New York, as this is volume 13, no. 1. The magazine has a fun, blocky feel with rust-orange typeset and invert leaf pages (white on orange). The poems are quirky and interesting, including a concrete poem about moths and gnats by Joel Allegretti that literally swarms all over the page.
I have two pastoral poems in this, their Country Living issue. At first glance, I would seem to be the only one representing the English countryside. The first of the two poems is dedicated to a fellow expat, inspired by her father’s name for light rain on their American farm. I continue to see the landscape here through the eyes of a transplant, still so foreign to my California desert upbringing, still bemused by the abundance of precipitation.
Many thanks to Abby E. Murray for accepting these poems. Harpur Palate is available from Binghamton University.
In my latest poetry review on Huffington Post UK, I look at the newest collections of three poets with decidedly unique worldviews. More than this, what excites me about the trajectory in each collection is that in addressing gender, they have moved beyond postmodern deconstruction and disillusionment, expressing integrated perspectives whose reconciliation feels earned. That is, they do not simply open the wound for the sake of it, but to cleanse and thereby better heal.
A nun spikes her drinks with sacramental wine and wears red lace underwear. A soldier’s wife sits by the bed of a man whose legs have been blown off, and writes his story. In the hands of the poet, Sleeping Beauty has an MRI and Red Riding Hood becomes a femme fatale. Though rich in social commentary, these three American women poets tell their stories, not in generalisations, but through each well-honed line. As Wallace Stevens admonished, “Conceptions are artificial. Perceptions are essential.” The perceptions of these three are sensuous, evocative, and riveting.
Read the full review on Huffington Post UK.
The Internet gives us the illusion that the best a culture has to offer will invariably find its way to us. But when it comes to art, I find that so much still comes down to local knowledge. Americans and Brits alike have long maintained a fascination with the literary work of their overseas cousins, but usually only the biggest names make the trip across the pond.
Hoping in some small way to remedy this, I have written an article for the US edition of The Huffington Post on “5 British Poets to Watch in 2013” and, for sake of symmetry, an article in the UK edition of The Huffington Post on “Five American Poets to Watch in 2013“.
How closely you watch is, of course, up to you. My hope is that you will seek out the work of these ten fine poets out for your own sake, to bring a little transcontinental mischief and mirth to your poetry reading in the year ahead.