Andrew Philip Reviews The Silence Teacher

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The RoadMy friend the Scottish poet Andrew Philip wrote a review of The Silence Teacher that I just discovered tonight. His perspective is one I greatly respect — not only because I hold him in such high esteem as a poet, but because he, too, has walked grief’s road after losing an infant son.

It must have therefore been as hard in some ways for him to read the collection as it was for me to write it. Yet I can also think of no one better equipped to understand, from the inside out, the difficult task of attempting to make art, and thereby make meaning, from such loss.

There were many dark nights of self-doubt for me. These poems often felt simultaneously necessary and impossible to write. Grief is such difficult terrain to navigate honestly without fears of self-indulgence. Yet Andrew himself has done this masterfully, and I rate his own poems about his son among the most moving I have read.

It is therefore greatly affirming to see him write that The Silence Teacher represents “the kind of volume I wish I had written” since, through his support, encouragement, and fine example, in a way he did.

You can read the full review here.

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Three Views of The Silence Teacher

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“…what is poetry for, if not to represent the breaking of hearts?”

-Fiona Moore, author of The Only Reason for Time

Assyrian SphinxThe Silence Teacher has the honour of appearing in what is, sadly, the final issue of Sphinx that will carry poetry pamphlet reviews. This online guardian of the the poetry pamphlet has presided with dignity over its cause for some time, and although its other activities will continue, the reviews will be missed.

In this double-barrelled review, Gill Andrews is drawn to the narrative poems, and finds them interesting, affecting, and precise. Marcia Menter considers the seven years of the pamphlet’s making “time enough to shape the raw emotion into a space as quietly resonant as a stone chapel.” She wishes for a bit more joy overall, but concedes that the work is entitled to its intensity. Both reviewers draw out unique and interesting observations, such as the use of fish to convey a sense of being underwater. You can read the full reviews in Sphinx 42 online.

Fiona Moore is no stranger to grief. Her pamphlet The Only Reason for Time, which rightly found its way to the Guardian Best Books of 2013, is a tender and subtle portrayal of the aftermath of losing a spouse. As a fan of her work, I value her thoughts particularly.

She notes how the vestiges of formal verse haunt even the free verse poems in The Silence Teacher, how there is playfulness in the midst of silence’s weight, and spots layers of metaphor in the animal poems. Just to know that these poems were so carefully read by a fellow traveller on this road is a comfort somehow. You can read the full extent of her thoughtful perspective here.

So, this slim, staple-bound creature continues to take on a life of its own.

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The Silence Teacher Reviewed in The North

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The North, No. 51

“…fresh sweat and sweet / Mortality, he found them on the North”

-Thom Gunn, “At the Back of the North Wind”

Paul Stephenson reviewed The Silence Teacher, along with three other pamphlets from Poetry Salzburg, in the current issue of The North. He begins, “If all poetry is essentially about love and loss then there is little need to read beyond Robert Peake’s beautiful and heart-breaking pamphlet, The Silence Teacher”.

He quotes from the book in summary of its themes, and picks up on the “interplay between love and hate” sometimes manifesting in “quiet violence” at various points in the collection. Indeed, sometimes sadness and anger, love and hate, have much in common. He concludes, “These highly-crafted, long-considered poems have so much emotional resonance, from a father who will not teach his son hello, whose son ‘came in waving goodbye'”.

Paul also gives a friendly mention to the Transatlantic Poetry on Air project, and treats the other pamphlets in this series with equally brisk and enticing insights. I look forward to reading the rest of The North, and reading and re-reading my fellow Salzburgian pamphleteers.

Single issues and subscriptions to The North are available from The Poetry Business.

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The Silence Teacher Reviewed in Magma Poetry

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MagmaGeoff Sawers reviews my newest short collection The Silence Teacher in Magma Poetry.

He notes its “consistently even, deeply muted tones” that betray “very little of either self-pity or self-absorption” and declares it an “uneasy, affecting and unforgettable collection”.

Magma has become one of my favourite UK literary journals, in part for its tremendous variety; its poetry editors rotate with every issue. I am delighted by the mention, and pleased to be reviewed alongside the up-and-comer Rachel Piercey and well-known poet Martin Figura.

Read the full review here.

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Afric McGlinchey Reviews The Silence Teacher

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“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

-T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland”

SabotageAs I have said before, it is a strange and wonderful thing to read the results of someone reflecting deeply and at length upon your own work. Irish poet Afric McGlinchey does just that in her review of The Silence Teacher for Sabotage:

Peake’s descriptions brim with sensibility, but the sensibility does not obstruct or abstract the lucidity of the seeing. Associations infiltrate the scenes of his poems like groundwater.


You can read the full review here.

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