Peace Camp by Peter Carpenter, Review #7

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien

One of the joys of this challenge lies in discovering new presses, as well as new poets. Sabotage Reviews has always invited people to send in their works for review, but this has highlighted how many slip through the crack when someone isn’t actively banging the drum in the town square (as I think I have been doing on social media).

There’s nothing new about Maquette however, they have been publishing pamphlets first from 1996-2002 then, after a break, from 2014 onwards. Peter Carpenter, whose pamphlet I am going to try and review here, is the fifth chapbook published in this revival of the press, so it’s about time it gets some coverage. Carpenter is a familiar name too, a widely-published poet who also happens to be the co-director of Worple Press.

I wasn’t sure I’d get on with Carpenter’s Peace Camp, the title and crisp white cover made me worry the content would be a bit ‘worthy’. That was before I got to the poem ‘Dunwich Heath’, a first person portrait of the heath which includes the lines ‘I am the very stuff you are from – / humus ‘, and then, I was sold. I was pleasantly reminded of David Attwooll’s Ground Work in the sense that this is nature-poetry at its best: fractured, far-reaching, and imaginative.

I have to admit that the humus line startled me in part because I misread it as hummus. Still, it tricked me into paying more attention to this longer poem so, job done! The epigraph to it is from King Lear,  ‘O I have ta’en / Too little care of this’ hinting at a more ecological and serious bend to the poem, along with the ‘powerlines you can see / marching inland’. The result could have been preachy (or again, worthy), but the poem stays on the whole joyous and accepting, focusing on the fauna and flora of the place:

So just let yourself go
   into my word-failing hug
leave your indentations
   on my grasses
my call the clacking
   of two stones

It’s a poem teeming with life (and some deaths), delivered with the casual confidence of a poet who has been in the game for decades. Elsewhere, that confidence is perhaps a little too casual, as in the case of ‘Cricket on the Head’, which is quite throwaway (‘us lot lolling in this heavenly shade’), but I think ‘Dunwich Heath’ makes up for any weaknesses found elsewhere.

This December, I have given myself the task of reviewing one pamphlet a day to raise money for next year’s Saboteur Awards. You can help by donating, or sharing the link using the hashtag #pamphletparty. I am not sure how this month is going to go, some pamphlets will be easier than others. I have given myself the aim of writing at least 300 words for each, a lower word-count than the usual reviews on Sabotage, in the hopes of making it more manageable! Here’s a link to the previously published reviews in this project!