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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (144 pages)
(Pub. Jun 1995)
Sorrow, there is a river,
great path beneath your adamantine path,
tugging it like a midwife
then breaking on these shores in its own birth.
And joy, there is a blackbird
who will navigate its way to this washed margin
and waking you in the morning
even you had not imagined, will have you speak.
from 'Passage to the Islands'
One of John Peck's debts to the Modernists is his sense of continuity between the arts: poetry, music, sculpture and painting are not only analogous as forms of discovery; their process is related at a deeper level, the 'cantabile' of making and making real the world in its dense connectedness. 'Our lives are seldom ours alone,' he has written; a poem is at once 'a single act of mind and feeling' and an intersection of elements collectively held. Selva Morale borrows its title from Monteverdi's Selva Morale e Spirituale, underlining the 'cantabile' Peck insists on. Like his earlier poetry, it mixes styles, not voices. He writes: 'When we are both Nietzsche's Hyperboreans and flotsam in a mass, the modes of expression will be jangled. Plato's formulation of this, though to moderns it seems to reverse causality by saying that things go into flux because the modes do, is not perverse. Conciousness is not derivative.' Peck's poems do not settle for 'voice' or 'voices'; the stabilities and the flow of the poems come from a consistent and profound grasp of the resources of a complex, rich medium, whose histories (in various languages) remain a living resource.
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