Hertfordshire Songs E-Book Available Now

Hertfordshire Songs CoverI moved to the English countryside from London just over five years ago, and haven’t looked back.

As you can imagine, the quirks of suburban and pastoral England have inspired quite a few poems, including a long poem sequence in the style of the heroic crown of sonnets, reminiscent of Sir John Betjeman’s Metro-Land.

Because these poems feel like their own entity, I have decided to make them available as an e-book. They are available on my website to download for just £0.99 (about $1.31).

These poems whisk you along from raves to roundabouts, weirs to war memorials — a kind of poetic tour, if you like, of what I find most curious and endearing about the place I now call home.

Click here to order your copy or learn more.


January Poetry Surgeries in St. Albans, Hertfordshire

Following on from last year’s success, I will again be offering a limited number of one-to-one “Poetry Surgeries” through the UK Poetry Society in St. Albans, Hertfordshire on Sunday, January 31st. This is a great way to get new perspectives and reinvigorate your writing for the coming year.

Valerie Morton, author of two full-length collections of poetry, had this to say about our time together:

Having never done a ‘poetry surgery’ before I was a little apprehensive, but Robert Peake immediately put me at ease. He had done a lot of work on the poems I had sent in advance and helped me to look at them with new eyes. His thoughts and ideas helped me free up my language and inspired me to be braver with the material I had. I felt I was getting into a bit of a rut with my writing but I left this surgery feeling uplifted and encouraged to be unafraid to experiment more. It was one of the best value hours I have spent with a poet who I trust and whose own work I admire. It certainly helps lift a writer’s block.

These one-hour sessions take place in a central location in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, near to parking, train, and bus links. Last time, all sessions sold out, and this time there are fewer sessions available. So, if you or someone you know in Southeast England might be interested, please do have a look at The Poetry Society website to book your place.

Here’s to a year full of great writing ahead!


The (Poetry) Doctor Is In (Hertfordshire)

surgeryThe chill of autumn brings the start of a new school year, and the beginning of a new venture for me. I am pleased to offer “poetry surgeries” through the UK Poetry Society for the Hertfordshire area. If you’re local, and interested in a bit of encouragement and some fresh perspectives on your writing, you can book your one-hour slot for an individual consultation through the Poetry Society website. I expect them to go quickly.

Since I naturalised as a British citizen just one year ago today, let me explain to my American readers what this is all about. The term “doctor’s surgery” actually refers to a local family doctor’s office, where he or she sees all manner of patients for initial consultations. The term is used exclusively for the operating theatre in America. So, please, think tongue depressors and stethoscopes — not forceps and saws.

In fact, I am a firm believer that, as Wordsworth said, “we murder to dissect”. Which means, far from taking a surgical approach, that at the heart of all my writing, thinking, teaching, and consulting about poetry is the sheer love of poetry itself. This doesn’t preclude incisive perception, but it does mean that I believe we can take our art both very seriously and without pretension.

So if this kind of “surgery” sounds like something that could give you a boost, do have a look at the available slots. I shall look forward to poring over some poems with a nice cup of tea with you in the charming medieval market town of St. Albans soon. No scalpels required.


Moving to the Country

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

-T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

“Do I dare to eat a peach?”

-T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

After a year of overcrowded commutes, loud neighbours, litter, pollution, and everything else that goes with a densely-populated metropolis, we have decided to move out of London proper, into the Hertfordshire countryside. I will still be forty minutes by fast train from the heart of London, to serve consulting clients, visit museums, and attend poetry readings. But in deciding where to reside and where to visit, having quiet natural surroundings at our doorstep, and world-class culture and work opportunities a short train ride away — seems like the best possible mix for Val and me at this stage of our lives.

London is a great, energetic city, but from the start I have also felt its centrifugal force. One is either at the very center of things, thriving on that experience — and abiding all that goes with it — or, gradually, it seems that those who aim for a more relaxed pace of life get edged further out over time.

I miss the community we had in Ojai, the small town in California we called home for the six years leading up to our leap across the pond, and hope to recapture some of that spirit, and discover unique aspects of rural English life, in our new village of Wheathampstead. We will be just up the road from Shaw’s Corner, in a cluster of historic villages (many dating back to Roman times), surrounded by gently rolling fields and lush forests, cut by brooks and public footpaths, dotted with farms and country pubs.

Moving day is a week from tomorrow, with a long list of to-dos between now and then. See you again in the countryside!