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sounds between trees by Peter Larkin (Guillemot Press)

sounds between trees by Peter Larkin (Guillemot Press)

Are the sounds between trees a kind of conversation? The wind? Or silence? Or is it an abstraction, even at times a personification, ‘to save us from / what is formless’? Peter Larkin’s new book, a beautifully produced volume by Guillemot, evidences an arboreal religiosity, ‘a thud of spirit’, rooted in a landscape of prayer and seeking.

The hundred small poems here (each two or three short lines) are small-scale devotions-come-observations, verbal snapshots of a world of verticals, ‘[t]rees above trees’, shelter, storms and ‘noises in rain’. Within the ‘[t]ree chaos’, it seems that nature itself prays, perhaps to itself, in a self-contained cycle of erosion, displacement and ecology. 

The final line asks ‘is this how the wild calls?’ I truly do not know; the words – pared back to a minimum – are more ‘a stumble into the uncondition’ that Larkin seeks, a hoped-for escape from human formlessness into a new world which celebrates and facilitates its own natural forms. 

Words like ‘abnegation,’, ‘abdication’, ‘grief’ and ‘penury’ suggest a sense of loss and pain, but this book is also infused with hope. Phrases such as ‘the cycle of increase’ and ‘towards wholeness’ speak of a future, perhaps an overgrown world where humans have no place, or at the very least know their place:

     Tree chaos amid
     greyed-out (us) of harm,
     a forest of counter-calms

These compressed, thoughtful and thought-provoking miniatures are evidence of a complex engagement with the world around us, disturbing and insightful moments of possibility and potential, a quiet forest of words, ‘a place of return / racks of outlook at rest’.

Rupert Loydell 27th June 2022

Peter Larkin’s Lessways Least Scarce Among

Lessways Least Scarce Among: Poems 2002-2009


Peter Larkin’s new volume from Shearsman Press is sheer delight. The volume opens with ‘Turf Hill’, an interplay between the wild and the industrial, the electricity pylon and the tree:

‘How the boles thin to the widener of tracking turf, pylon by terrace of heeded instrument! If the tree-standing for wire is the pull of cantileaf, what can indent its continuous ornament looping on power line? The trees are resident by unavailing advantage, full technical sorrow lattices their derivative store of staying beside-hand a cloaked way below. Each wafer strut as actuator, soft spring between wing and store. Field follower across overhead pitch, into the straits which fertilise a neb of impasse, but where wire cups to its beak, a lift of towers inciting local spine, so spike your green along. Forked untransformable at heel of branch, trees topped for their sail-at-root, they bare these iron masts whenever nothing can have happened to the great limb.’

Here vulnerability threads its way through ‘unavailing’ to the word ‘sorrow’ before shifting to the association of the human traveller (‘cloaked’) which suggests both secrecy and protection. The density of this rich passage concludes with a further shift towards commercialism as the verb ‘topped’, associated with the wood management of pollarding, moves towards the pun on ‘sail’/sale and the voyaging image of ‘masts’ pushing on wards with human commercial enterprise.

This new volume from Shearsman gives us a comprehensive account of how Peter Larkin’s landscape is not so much a thing as a process.

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