Peter Richards



by Peter Richards
Action Books, 2011
90 pages / $16.00 Buy from Action Books
Rating: 8.0





The interlocking poems of Peter Richard’s Helsinki pleasure the reader by taking a deviated, scenic route, rather than getting straight to the point. Disregarding individual poem titles and punctuation (except for apostrophes), the poems become a labyrinth — ritually switching subject matters, physical settings and places in time. There’s even an element of multiplicity with the speaker, undertaking different roles across the terrain of the book: a lover, a solider, etc:

“We each appear indelible visible / precisely as ourselves but in the way / letters in a name might come oddly assorted I never fully wore the skin / of my name as when seeing my name / pass in that way forever staring down …”

With reckless line breaks, unyielding sentences, and a lack of punctuation to serve as a guide for how to read and when to stop and take a breath, there are moments in Helsinki where the poems can be difficult, seemingly almost inaccessible. This isn’t an easy book; this shouldn’t deter readers, though. Richards is a talented writer: with an affinity for gnarly diction, he is able to aptly and swiftly go from one off-the-wall surreal scene to another within a few lines in a poem:

“My tube was never removed so this painting depicts / the continuation of sound passing through one boundary / wall to the next on and out into space where I still have / a more or less decent view of the villa though it looks small”

Memory and recollection are thematically crucial as well. The speaker (or perhaps speakers?) is unsure where to the draw line differentiating between a past memory, a dream, and something this present sense of the world: “When I came to it was a place impossible / to distinguish from the place in my sleep.” And perhaps that’s the most attractive element of the book: being thrown into an unstable literary landscape that undergoes constant metamorphosis. Helsinki is dynamic. It’s an “endless architecture,” one that spirals and swirls into many places, trying to accomplish a difficult task for itself:

“woe to be counted when a mountain with so many / unburdens itself hearing cries from the buried ones / failing inside a mouth clogged with it recalls my own / failure to ever capture in words the whitened season”

August 17th, 2011 / 12:06 pm