Peter A Writer
In Art of Insomnia, the poet Peter A—and that’s the name he goes by, as in Peter A Writer—has created a chapbook of some 22 poems that are introspective and yet outward-focused. That’s a trick to pull off. Introspective poets tend to dwell on the self. Peter A casts himself in the context of others, both other people and other relationships.
The relationship that occupies the center in this collection is that of Peter A and his wife.
The poems suggest that it is something far deeper than a broken relationship. Instead, they tell a story of the pain of physical separation, of loss, and perhaps even of death. You experience the sense of being torn apart. Some vital piece of yourself is no longer there, as if you’ve lost a limb, yet still feel its physical presence in a very real, tangible way. And it hurts. The loss is so profound that it’s pushing you to examine your own physical and spiritual being.
This poem is but one example. Its formalist style (not all the poems in the chapbook are formalist) at first almost disguises or downplays its subject. And then the last lines hit you unexpectedly, and you realize this man is deeply and almost sorrowfully questioning everything.
Now in mornings waking,
no one to be kissed,
spend some time convincing
myself I still exist.
Why do I go on living
if to help no one?
What point is there existing,
now that you are gone?
Knowing it’s a blessing
still to be alive;
yet it is distressing
you are not by my side.
Your tender touch is missing,
your eyes of sapphire blue.
Your heart is so full of feeling
and loyalty so true.
That is why this morning
though I can see and breathe,
I take some time considering
what I do and don’t believe.
The poet’s resolution to this grief is, no surprise, poetry. He finds it in a flower, a pilgrimage to a shared place, a Christmas card (to “half a person”), a sunrise, night music, and the interval on his clock’s snooze alarm. This resolution has elements of redemption, but its strongest sense is that of simply moving forward.
Peter A received first prize in the 2016 Paisley Spree Fringe Poetry Competition. His poetry has been published online, film poems, and journals and been included in several anthologies. A Scot by birth (he also holds Irish citizenship), he lives in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Art of Insomnia is a small volume, but it is a collection packed with power and intense feeling. Its individual poems question and examine everything; nothing is off-limits. Ultimately, they embrace and ultimately accept a deep, transforming grief.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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