Thursday, September 12, 2019

Cyclone - Robert Peake (Nine Arches Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Cyclone.  Robert Peake.  Nine Arches Press.  Rugby, United Kingdom.  2018.

Today's book of poetry liked Robert Peake's Cyclone very much, hence today's blog/review.  But we love, love, loved Peake's series of poems "The man with the kindest face...".  In this mad weary world Peake is only too happy to tell us about the horrors, about "Waking Up to the Last Winter on Earth."  Peake's "kindness" poems offer us a balm, a salve, a hope, a chance.

The man with the kindest face
pumps up your bicycle tyre

He keeps his eye on the task, fitting the hose and
squeezing the bulb, like a man-sized pollinator. The
tyre lets out a sigh of relief. "Good as new," he lies,
admiring your beat-up Schwinn. His eyes are trained
to see chrome, not rust, skip over the tar-blackened
chain. He glances up. He'd best be on his way.s


Today's book of poetry always thought old Willy the Shakes' Prospero was the keeper of storm knowledge but Peake makes a strong case for his own expertise in Cyclone.  Robert Peake seems a little tired of our clumsy nonchalance with the world we've inherited.  In these poems there is a dark ring of foreboding around any ray of hope.

Then, the cheek of the man, to leave us at the end of all these various miseries, he leaves us with a love poem, of genuine sweetness and cheer, to tie up the loose ends.  Peake is doing it with his tongue in his cheek, but it is still part of Whitman's "yawp" ("I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.") or WCWilliams' "Paterson" ("we sit and talk"), and Ginsberg's "Howl".

Horse Optimism

Rain sweetens the grass,
and the sun makes it tall;
no flies on windswept days;
no restless leaves when calm.

At a distance, I see where you are.
Up close, I smell where you've been.

Sun dries the mud,
dew decorates the field.
Lie down in summer heat,
stamp against the chill.

Halfway through every journey out
we begin the ride back home.

Sweet grass from rainy days
a field sparked with dew
breeze to blow the flies away
the sight, then smell of you.


Things in the Today's book of poetry universe are in flux at the moment.  There are always some transitions to be made at the end of the summer, students coming and going, new interns, old office tech.  So our morning read changes as people come and go.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, and Milo, our head tech, met here at Today's book of poetry, married last spring, and they are now getting ready to go off and write some poetry of their own.

Maggie, our newest intern, just celebrated her first anniversary here at Today's book of poetry, intern no more, she'll be taking over from Kathryn.  No one can replace Milo so don't even talk to me about it.  They will be missed but loved.

Robert Peake's Cyclone made for a lovely read despite the numerous changes here.  Strong poetry holds up, simple as that.

And isn't this the way all poets feel, frequently...

Failure to Thrive

I awoke, late afternoon, to a summer storm,
realising I had done none of the things
that the dead white men, who wrote history
expected me to do to get added to their book,
and that the stream of productivity, running on
like an endless sentence from the past, was one
I punctuated far too often with a nap. The smell
of the rain came through the smallest window crack.
It was late summer. The rain had no idea of its
ending, and the smell was great with promise
for a week of gentle breezes pushing sculptures
of white cloud, the kind I could never write about
well enough to distinguish myself from the 773,000
cloud poems Google offers up to me for a click,
in point three eight seconds, because that's how fast
you have to be now to be somebody. The spare room
I favour sleeping in by day became almost imperceptibly
green, in the shadow of the thunderhead's contemplation,
yet I was there to see it, with the cat, who said nothing.


Most poets at my end of the pool share these sentiments with regularity.  Robert Peake is not alone in his self-assessment but he is somewhat misleading.

Today's book of poetry thinks Peake has done enough to distinguish himself.  Cyclone is one eloquent burn.

Robert Peake

Robert Peake is an American-born poet living near London. He created the Transatlantic Poetry series, bringing poets together for live online readings and conversations. His film-poem collaborations have been widely screened in the US and Europe. He is a poetry surgery tutor for the Poetry Society in Hertfordshire, and writes for the Huffington Post. His debut The Knowledge, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2015, and his second poetry collection Cyclone is published in July 2018, also from Nine Arches Press.

Cyclone takes the strengths of Robert Peake’s previous work - candour, intensity, a hard-won wit - and enters the storm, in search of an answer to the question raised by his heartbreaking ‘Why I Should Be Over It By Now’. Built around four remarkable sequences, this new collection takes him into the most difficult of territories - grief and parental loss - to recover the possibility, however fugitive, of healing. The ‘Cyclone’ here is both personal and political. In such turbulent and shrill times, this is his most powerful work to date.'
     - Michael Symmons Roberts

'Homesickness, belonging, and travelling without arriving are just some of the terrain covered in Peake's Cyclone, but it’s the vitality and emotional courage in the language of these poems that one is most struck by — language stepping in and out of the shadows and yearning ‘in the silt-choked afterlife of someone’s grief.’ A beautiful book that deserves to be lingered over and read widely.' 
     - Mona Arshi

'Relentless and gorgeous, Cyclone is where poems of awe and of mourning the infinite “Cognates of Grief” converge, bless and roar. In its searching for “What Will Survive Us,” Robert Peake’s second collection is as tender as it is overwhelming, as intimate as it is expansive. He asks “What becomes of longing / when the fire goes out?” “Has there ever been such a thing as progress?” “How much do you need?” and answers with aftermaths, the “wild dance...between the gathering clouds and ionised land,” a braving of history and memory and home. I am deeply thankful for this book—its guts, its grace.'
     - R.A. Villanueva

15. 10. 2017 Robert Peake & Paul Stephenson read new works from their new poetry books at The Tennessee Bar = 2, rue AndrΓ© Mazet 75006 Paris, France. 
Video: Poets Live


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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