We’ve all showed up naked to the big exam, says Peter Harris. Ignore that body near the door—it’s only your failed plans. These are the sort of laughable /humorous, piercing honesties with which Harris breaks the ice, and persuades us that his speaker has sailed through his exams naked and stumbled over the bodies. Alternately bemused, furious, crestfallen, optimistic, despairing—these poems speak from the sweaty field of the human condition. Freeing The Hook takes you on a backstage tour of love, death, family and solitude. Their dark, inquisitive, tender humor is our immunization. Their stubborn compassion is our salvation.
Reading Peter Harris’s poems in Freeing the Hook, I sensed my glasses miraculously cleansed, all the smudges gone—there was such clarity. The poet, standing among neighbors, family, friends, shows us all the fine ironies of choice and chance, body and soul, longing and letting go. Even the heaviest moments Harris holds with a light touch. Questioning how to separate “love from desire,” his speaker says, “I’m asking you,” and then immediately adds, “I value your silence.” Wit, wisdom and verbal dexterity are all here in finely crafted poems that give us “something truer than the facts, something that was hidden,” or as another poem puts it, “the not-doable, done.” It’s that grace we find here, that delicious Zen-like sense of paradox that inhabits this book and makes it something to treasure and return to again and again.
Peter Harris, recently retired, had taught at Colby College since 1974. His chapbook, Blue Hallelujahs, won the Maine chapbook competition in 1996. He holds a BA from Middlebury, a Ph.D. from Indiana University. And a MFA from Warren Wilson.
He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Arts, Red Cinder House, and the Tyron Guthrie Center in Ireland, and has been awarded a Martin Dibner Writing Fellowship.
His poems and criticism have appeared in many magazines and journals—including the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and the Virginia Quarterly Review.
He is co-founder of a mentoring program (Colby Cares About Kids) that in 2012-13 matched nearly five hundred College students with primary and elementary students in ten communities.
Among other things, especially qualifying him to write poetry, he's worked as a doodlebugger in an oil search crew for Citgo, a line worker in an artificial Christmas tree filament factory, a cabin boy an a yacht, crew on a shrimp boat in Honduras, a kitchen worker and pot washer, an assembler in a fancy box factory.