The Knowledge by Robert Peake
Nine Arches Press, 2015
Reviewed by Lorenia Salgado
Robert Peake’s The Knowledge, his first full-length poetry collection, cuts through the chaotic in order to expose the self’s intimate experience with the physical world. The collection of poems is categorized by three sections: “The Argument,” “Postcards from the War Hospital,” and “The Smoke,” addressing the speaker’s intricate response to life’s perplexing moments.
Although The Knowledge provides a series of poems that radiate the thematic of emotional complexity, there is a sense of hope. The speaker’s quest for knowledge extends to an interrogation of the self’s interaction with past and present experiences, where at times it (un)consciously becomes part of a larger type of knowledge.
“Nocturne with Writer’s Block” dissects the liminal stages of a writer’s creative process where the speaker becomes a sort of an abstract subject; a kind of metamorphosis that brings to life the writer’s poetic language:
Five days, and no letters sent to my other self.
It has been too long I have listened to chatter.
Now, let the deeper words come.
My poems protest the way I have lived my life.
Little poems, don’t do that. I have lived
like anyone else, halfway entranced.
this nostalgia for my own invented world.
Sometimes the one I live in seems unbearable.
Sometimes the light behind my eyes
becomes more real, and dazzling, because
I want it to be real, even as I am not.
For five days, I have been nothing but real.
Time to shed that skin, and write.
Time to spin, like a child, into blindness.
Whether examining the intricacies of the self’s perceptive nature, the voice in these poems is deeply reflective, defiant, and with doses of insect imagery: “The argument to remain placid is as soft as the fur-covered thoraces, as clear / and as light as the transparent wings.” While embracing the knowledge we are all capable of embodying and transforming, Peake’s poems flow through various alchemies, all of them intertwined with an overarching sense of reflection and responsibility: “So you walk around with this secret knowledge, / burning like a gas lamp inside, while all around / the land is soaking, gently soaking.”