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This review is taken from PN Review 94, Volume 20 Number 2, November - December 1993.

TRAJECTORIES JOHN PECK, Argura (Carcanet) £9.95 and Poems and Translations of Hi-Lo (Carcanet) £6.95

John Peck's poetry is full of hard, definite shapes, words like 'amber', 'crystal', 'diamond' recur, while images of mosaics and the mosaic interlocking of surfaces dominate his poems. Yet these are often accompanied by images of height and distance, a perspective which gives these individual shapes and surfaces context. A characteristic of his work, from his first collection Shagbark (1972 and out of print) to this, Argura, his fourth, is the swooping criss-crossing of birds. Gulls, terns, starlings cut across the sky, and it is when their perspectives are adopted that these hard-edged pieces fall into place:

rooflines lock
into their habitable puzzle
or genially crazed plate from the ridge,
singular angles nestled and absorbed
      ('Turns near Vincigliata')


The poem describes the drive from Vincigliata, the gathering height and distance, the growing perspective that does not so much smooth these edges as reveal their interrelations. It is the way words like 'habitable', 'genial', 'nestled' are coupled with 'puzzle', 'crazed' and 'singular', and the way each defines, gives meaning, to the other, that gives perhaps the best clue to the kind of approach that this undoubtedly 'difficult' poet requires. This poem is also worth comparing with one simply entitled 'The Turn' from Shagbark, where we find the lines 'This is how recognition seizes // How the patterns of obscure ruins/Reveal themselves to fliers/Rising printlike through the grassy plains'.

It is about perspective, the 'puzzle' becoming 'habitable', the difficult becoming 'genial', ...


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