North American Titles

John Peck - I Came, I Saw — 8 Poems


John Peck - I Came, I Saw — 8 Poems

Paperback, 118pp, 9x6ins

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The writer's test will always remain the unforeseeable metaphor — such is Aristotle's contention, and Mandelshtam's on Dante (one crosses a Chinese river by hopping among interweaving junks). The modern sister arts had already stretched scale and boundary within metaphor before Pauli's quantum physics had shaken hands with Jung's psychology. Expansion, collision, suspension, antiphony, and polytonality are still on the move as means; the title poem here presses Mandelshtam's figure toward the testimony cited from Aaron Copland — Rightness — I worked on each one apart, not knowing how they'd go together. Peck's father, who did secret work on the A-bomb, anecdotally anchors this practice, which relies not on mimetic fallacy (going random in order to conform) but on the cryptic-grotesque license borrowed from Shostakovich. "For feeling has found itself at last / hanging over the whole field …/… for dreamed music floats the mountain, / it does not drill toward the meeting from both sides". Frank Martin and Sibelius, who occasionally startle their students here, arrange such meetings. And the poems that do not adopt these measures none the less plant a flag for them, as in ‘A Compound March' — "At the node of the labyrinth, a blur of crossings / …a harmony of doublings, the hand of two powers / to one end." Or in ‘On the Sentencing of Philip Berrigan' — "search is also / a downward teacher, zooming in on string / or a coastline to unpack / more and more length, past the border guards / into an unfolding country, / density's outward—the whole in ongoing / announcement, my limit / coming at me with the dissolving force of entry". The demon of construction has thrown his dice across boundaries in this collection because they warrant the gambit.


"For my money, the best poet of my generation… as indifferent to academic fashions as he is to those of the poetry market." —Clive Wilmer

"Perhaps the most challenging—and one of the most rewarding—poets of his generation." —Robert Archambeau

"He has a wider range of reference and ideas than almost anyone now writing…" —David Ferry

"John Peck may be the best American poet whose name you've never heard." —Peter Campion


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