What Seamus Heaney Meant to Me

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney, 1970. Photo: Simon Garbutt

One of my favourite poets, who had a significant influence on me, is also one of the world’s most-loved poets, who had a significant influence on the latter half of the twentieth century. Now Seamus Heaney is gone.

The sound of a giant falling is so tremendous that whatever we say afterward must be done in a whisper. It occurs to me that quietly retracing the ways in which this wonderful poet influenced my personal relationship to poetry could serve not only as the telling of a somewhat universal tale, but also as a personal tribute.
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Broken is Beautiful

“For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

-Achaan Chah, as reported by Mark Epstein

“Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

A lovely ceramic miso bowl that a friend brought back to me from Japan as a gift survived our move from California to England. Then one day it fell and shattered. We saved the pieces, thinking that we might try to repair it using the Japanese art of gold joinery called Kintsugi (金継ぎ). For my birthday, my sister bought me a New Kintsugi Repair Kit from a company in the Netherlands. You can see the results of this morning’s work below.

 

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The bowl now occupies pride of place in my home office. It is a reminder that impermanence can be inherently beautiful. It is a reminder that so-called mistakes can be transformed into something even more interesting than so-called perfection. It is a reminder to me that nothing is either permanent or irrevocable. It is a reminder that broken is beautiful.


Notes from the Inaugural Filmpoem Festival

Dunbar, Scotland

I had a tremendous time at the Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar, Scotland and wrote a bit about this groundbreaking event for Huffington Post.

In the article, I also give a sample of some of the outstanding films that screened during the festival. Hats off to Alastair Cook for making this such a memorable and momentous event for those of us besotted with this unique emerging genre.

Read the article, and watch the film-poems, on Huffington Post.


The Avuncular Variations (Poem and Audio)

Sippy CupMy sister-in-law and our three-year-old nephew stayed with us for a week. It was great to revisit the classics: Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and Matchbox cars. They will soon be on their way back to Australia. Needless to say, I will miss them.

Spending time together was at once familiar and profound, and as is often the case with such experiences, it prompted me to write. What follows is a poem for my nephew in four parts, and an audio recording of me reading it.
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What American Independence Day Means to Me

FireworksIn my latest entry for The Huffington Post, I take a look at the American tradition of celebrating our independence from Britain on the Fourth of July. As you can imagine, though I do miss the hot dogs and sparklers, living in Britain now causes me to question much of what I once took for granted as unquestionably true.

Beyond the way one might root for a local sporting team, why might this particular national celebration still matter? I took a look around me for suitable metaphors to characterise the promise of the American spirit, and found one in the very place that I have spent most of my technology career: the start-up company.

Happy (Almost) Fourth of July to my fellow countrymen.


The Silence Teacher is Now Available

The Silence Teacher by Robert Peake

My short poetry collection The Silence Teacher is now available from Poetry Salzburg. It distills nearly seven years of writing about love and loss into just thirty-two pages, and is dedicated to the memory of our son.

The poems in this collection were written in both America and England. They encompass the two years of my MFA in Writing degree at Pacific University, wherein the encouragement of my mentors Sandra Alcosser, Marvin Bell, and Joseph Millar, alongside many gifted students and friends, helped me to take up William Stafford’s challenge to revise, not only my work, but my life.

Many thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Görtschacher and Andreas Schachermayr, not only for selecting this manuscript, but for working very diligently and efficiently since then to bring it to publication. Pre-orders are now shipping from Austria and, if you have not already, you can order your own copy here.