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reading human shade by robert peake

March 16, 2011

I don’t know if I ever told you this, but if you’re looking for someone to blame for Carolee-the-Blogger, you should blame Robert Peake. His blog was one of the first I started following regularly in the months before I started blogging on my own in June 2006. At least this is how I remember it.

I was so struck and inspired by Robert’s posts and confessions and pursuits that it was clear to me right away the power of good writing inside this medium.

When I had the chance to be among the first in line to get Lost Hose Press new Poets Series Volume V with Robert’s collection “Human Shade” in it, I jumped at it. I devoured it immediately, and continue to do so.

Here’s the brief review I wrote and posted on Goodreads and Amazon (link above):

I read this book when it first came in the mail, and ever since, I keep returning to it. I am especially taken by the section “Human Shade” by Robert Peake. The poems in “Human Shade” strike on a breath-taking tension between harsh and delicate images. The effect is quite devastating and beautiful.

It’s quite easy to get so wrapped up in Robert’s poems that they evoke physical sensations: teary eyes, shortened breaths. Sometimes, even, a gasp, like the metaphor about pulling the trigger of a gun: “killing/ someone with a gesture as slight and easy/ as curling an index finger into a teacup.”

It’s an amazing collection in that way. Stunning and vivid.

But my favorite thing about the collection is that it contains not only precise metaphor (both those that come readily and those that make you pause and think) but sprinkled in are also many lines of plain language. The “bottom line lines” are incredibly grounding. Their weight is obvious when they are encountered. Here are some of my favorites:

“To be brutally honest, I loved you.” (Father-Son Conversation)

“[The cat] is unimpressed. She only wants to know if
such an act would have brought mice to the altar.” (Matins with Slippers and House Cat)

“It comes/ down on me–everything I pushed out of my mind.” (“Human Shade”)

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