New Poems from Robert Peake and Jack Thacker


A chastity of hawthorn,
a smirch of blackberries,
a wince of stinging nettle. 

Adam named the beasts,
but the tribes of wildflower
name themselves: 

You say “Grove of beeches.”
They say, “Still below,
ablaze above.” 

A papacy of silver birch,
a memory-lapse of meadow grass,
a smouldering of lichen. 

Who we are, who we
are not–edged in black earth
and mist-white air. 

A concubine of ivy,
an omen of buttercups,
kaleidoscope of fern. 

Robert Peake 

The Night Office

Strange, to find yourself
in the woods at night
listening to the sound
of a song of sunlight.

A sound without a source
– pure, it seems to us –
broadcast from a thick
of this ancient coppice.

A sound designed for this:
the fuse of thorn and sap –
each note knows
how to bend and dip.

Heard but hard to spot:
the small brown heart
of soft down fluff
blurry with the effort.

Imagine it in your hand –
half-mouse, half-butterfly,
and its throat, vibrating
like a thought or worry

or a looked-for word.
Put your mind to it –
a tiny pale tongue
in a lightbulb socket.

A sound that’s amplified
by a lack of sound –
pulsing in the dark
not far off the ground.

A kind of defibrillated
subsong avian grammar –
phrases memorised
rapidly thrown together.

Slow down your ear
and it becomes clearer:
somewhere out there
the wilds of the savanna –

the whooping of hyena.
Slow it further still:
someone searching whistling,
the call of a humpback whale.

And now, the single voice
within its green chancel
is joined by another
and plays antiphonal.

Tracks in parallel:
chirping on the line
like a spike in signal.
No sign of the train.
                                             Jack Thacker


Robert Peake is an American-born poet living near London. He created the Transatlantic Poetry series, bringing poets together for live online readings and conversations. His film-poems have been widely screened in the US and Europe. His collection The Knowledge is available from Nine Arches Press.

Jack Thacker’s poetry has been published in PN ReviewThe Clearing and The Literateur, has been commissioned by the Bristol and Bath Festival of Nature and has featured on BBC Radio 4’s Natural Histories. He is the winner of the 2016 Charles Causley International Poetry Competition, judged by Andrew Motion, and is currently the poet-in-residence at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading.

Anna Dillon is a landscape artist living in Oxfordshire. Her paintings have been used as illustrations for the book Middle Ridgeway, written by Eric Jones and her father Patrick Dillon. Middle Ridgeway describes the chalk landscape of the Ridgeway from prehistory to the present day.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Janice D Soderlingreply
September 22, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Sadly I neglected to praise the very fine artwork. Apologies to Anna Dillon that lapse.

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