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This interview is taken from PN Review 98, Volume 20 Number 6, July - August 1994.

John Peck in Conversation Clive Wilmer

In the first poem in John Peck's first book, a party of climbers on a mountain approaches 'the last cols' before the peak:
Doors in this termless morning
Sills, thresholds
And the firmness beyond

It could be a description of Peck's own poems, which are like gateways between consciousness and the world it registers and perceives. His method combines clear definition ('firmness') with what appears to be its opposite - the moment when sensuous experience is transmuted into thought. One is not told what to think. One is invited to re-experience the world.

It is this that makes Peck, for me, the outstanding American poet of his generation - as well as one of the most difficult. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1941. As a young man he went to California to study under Yvor Winters. Then a doctoral thesis on Ezra Pound, which was supervised by Donald Davie, encouraged experimentation. The crisp sensuousness of Chinese poetry, as meditated by Pound's translations, is a key influence on his first two books, Shagbark (1972) and The Broken Blockhouse Wall (1978), Peck seemed destined for the now familiar career of American academic poet when, in 1984, he embarked on the study of Analytical Psychology at the Jung Institut in Zürich. Since 1993 he has been practising psychotherapy in his native New England. The 1990s have witnessed a spectacular flowering of his talent in two substantial books: Poems and Translations of Hi-Lö (1991) - Hi-Lö is Peck's Chinese heteronym - and Argura (1993).
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