REVIEWED BY JAMES PHILLIPS
(Nasty Little Press: 2023) by Luke Wright
When looking back at old photographs, what graces you? A smile? That familiar tide of nostalgia? The rush of forgotten memories that now reignite in your mind? To me, that is what Luke Wright’s fifth poetry collection, Peak, instills. The chromatic vibrancy of printed photographs, taken at the height of the moment: ‘All that Kodak goodness, all that Phenidone and light’ (‘Your Old Photos’).
There is a palpability of life, running like a stream of colour through his poems. These are reflected in the abundance of flora, nestled within the lines, the greenery and pops of flowers, a tinge of green, like a summer’s evening when he returns to happier times. His kids seeing their gran after she’s vaccinated: ‘huge nectar-gulps, they almost / knock you down’ (‘On The First Good Day of the Year’). The happy memory of treks in the woods. The endorphin high after a run.
This interweaved dynamism is embedded throughout, a movement that almost brings those still photographs to life, like a film playing on our retinas, from those precious moments: ‘as seconds become / minutes, then hours, then days, then years’ (‘Hungover with Katy’). But too, he mocks time, rewinding like a VHS: ‘Sad years / roll back: winter into autumn / into summer into spring, we watch // the leaves grow green, the blossom bloom from mulch’ (‘Ring’). Time and seasons rolling backwards and forwards like waves on a beach, as his lines resurrect an internal playback.
However, there is within the colour, the murk of times long gone. There is sepia and rust seeping in: the impermanence of memory and the intrusions from memories that should have stayed forgotten. Wright’s poetry encounters these head on, as the cover notes suggest: ‘inviting the reader to pull up a chair at the kitchen table’ and listen to the highs, and lows, of this man’s life, love won, love lost, and times shared with his nearest and dearest, even at his lowest. The bones of himself are shared, echoed in the bleached branches that bedeck ‘Covehithe Beach’ bearing all. Moodier colours offset the white of the walled garden gate, to beyond the safety of the wall meandering into brackish waters, scummy, flowing through uncertainty and clinging like the Suffolk mud. These darker poems round the collection into a full kaleidoscope and make the brightness of those sunny, daffodil-yellow poems sing even louder, in harmonious juxtaposition.
Ultimately, the collection is full of insight, of humanity, and a relatability for us all. For the poet it may be redemptive, but for us, these poems pose the question what in our past, do we value most? Do we choose to cherish the best times or, rather, those that are mundane? And perhaps ultimately, does the peak of our existence happen in the very moment where we are now? That’s for you to decide.
We were very happy to host a sold out event for Luke Wright on 8th February 2024