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Peter Larkin

Peter Larkin


I was born in the New Forest and spent my first 17 years only a few miles outside it, so that might account for something, both the proximity and the being outside. I decided I wanted to write about the age of 9, and aimed to write historical novels but wrote poems to while away the time until I was older. After Cambridge I did in fact write one long, semi-autobiographical novel (called In Place of Simon) which took me a number of years during the 70's but once having done it I realised it was mainly a poet's novel. It was never published though a few cyclostyled copies were produced, one of which has found its way into Cambridge University Library. My next novel didn't get beyond a series of 'interludes' within the narrative which I soon realised were more distinctive than any plot, and these became the germ of my first published poems, Enclosures, which came out in 1983. My writing has always operated between the margins of verse and prose, and this must reflect my early preoccupation with the novel, though concentrated sound and texture, internal half-rhyme or partial echo and word-permutation are basic to the fabric of what I write, however prosy in outline. My other concern has been with matters of landscape and ecology, often focussing on the predicament and analogical patterning of the woods and plantations which residually border our lives. Nearly all my working life has been spent as a librarian at Warwick University which has proved a wonderfully enabling scenario of attachments and detachments so far as my poetry goes. The prose character of much of my writing (though nearly always broken up into very short paragraphs, sometimes with verse tail-pieces) may also reflect my fascination with longer forms, with the possibility of exploring underlying phenomenological and theological 'arguments' in the mode of continuously noted variations and takes on 'outdoor' perception. I retired from Warwick University Library in 2013 and am now an Associate Fellow (linked to English and Philosophy). A Symposium on my work took place on April 26 2018 and the proceedings will appear in the Journal of British & Irish Innovative Poetry.


University of Warwick, 2005.

This reading was recorded at the University of Warwick on 2 September 2005.


  • Imparkments (the Surrogate has Settled) (Veer Books, 2012)
  • Give Forest its Next Portent (Shearsman, 2014)
  • City Trappings (Housing Heath or Wood) (Veer Books, 2016)
  • Introgression Latewood (Shearsman, 2017)


Sample Text

    Sprout Near Severing Close (Poems 1-4)


    Where woodpeckers physic the woods
    short, healing wasn't suspect
    if cut is taken in slip.

    Curt docks of circuit
    affray low region post-envelope:
    sprout with the limb fusiform,
    hold on scrap lignant pasture.

    Original trees blew long thirst
    from blockage to props of clip,
    capitulum was cut of their headiest
    capillary to fountainous shelter.

    Sharp stint below bend be stilled
    upwards, owing they out-trussed freely
    tied over so far torn.


    Naked of house abate the stacks
    sheer boles by failed roof,
    reduction-to a room up appends.

    Easily row more axes
    against single spout? You
    will have, given each tree
    is swivel of it swathed afloat.

    New woods disabrupted the ruck
    as if clearance (not sprout)
    had veered to an open (not
    shaven) horizon.

    Forest is the compaction of its
    brush terse downward, reverse
    motile juvenile in mix or smash
    peaks at the widest unfollowing recompense.

    Where shoot from is reconcussion
    off the cushion crash, length
    leaner in stubframe with sur-
    vival repeating the setback,
    fineal exudation's straw
    a ferule on a stick.


    Hits a scab a preservation
    where woods were worst of the few
    heavy cuts, incessant
    jerking of post-abandonment.

    Roomed over empty embedded root
    bears the stark of the entire of it,
    to obtain what each splinter stood.

    A spawn of tiny darts,
    zero quirks on uncoated earth
    but in cover of sprouting
    do set a nap on dearth
    without correction of thread:
    thin hunger like to tall.

    Flown snag of an oak stump
    bitten now to the slights,
    to the punctured kiosk
    in unvagrant slicing.

    Where a corrosion loan is pro-
    tection's sentience: the forest
    doesn't lean but pall at crown.
    Fell to amend clearance.


    Remembering primitive severance
    until rising wood outfloors
    like the flatness of early arbour,
    prime fallen clad of the undisplaced.

    Awake cleared forest and
    enfuture a field for stump!
    Curvate what stilts within root
    by knotting it swarms
    of sprout below
    any wrangle in the height.

    Not peeling back: because
    on naked ground to give sharp
    imprint of slump: the petty
    gear finds above shear-line.

    No shade stands but is
    inextricable low-ranging:
    shelter gutting it will
    lose height to rail
    while unvacancy empales the floor.

    A pact with the decreasing
    naturals, those sprouts
    are most tender
    lapel of the hold.

    Each down-sliver grown
    too weak to stand in the link
    outside the blight softness
    staying on spur.


"With a few exceptions, the sequences collected in Terrain Seed Scarcity are formally of a piece: a series of brief, extremely dense prose paragraphs, separated by large stanza breaks. Occasionally a prose passage breaks into verse, though the tense, verbless notations and almost arbitrary linebreaks (often mid-word) have a texture closer to open-form marginalia than polished lyric utterance... Despite my hesitations and uncertainties about this often very difficult collection, it gives me a firmer sense of the importance of what Larkin's doing in a way that encountering his individual chapbooks never did... Larkin himself is sometimes almost painfully modest in his claims for his work - at one point he says it hopes to achieve 'a minor freshness' (82) - but for this reader Terrain Seed Scarcity was one of the genuine discoveries of the past few years." -- Nate Dorward, The Gig

"This is a long-overdue collection which I welcome unreservedly. Ten years of complex prose poetry concerned with matters ecological and with the possibility of post-modern pastoral. Innovative stuff indeed, it can be thorny in places, as befits the dense undergrowth of this terrain, but finishes with the luminous seven-line 'found verses of 'Spirit of the Trees'." --Tony Frazer, Shearsman

"Peter Larkin advances his poetry with such meticulous care, and such scholarly tenderness, that it's a constantly recharging shock for the reader to experience the strange, radical exhilaration that arises from the movements of his work. The devotional quality of Larkin's penetrating attention to the rural scene is striking enough; but it's from the sensational affection of attentiveness itself, the visceral intellection of the reading relationship at large, that his writing derives its special intricacy and candour. Sheer, sometimes daunting, but always overwhelmingly attractive and vividly faithful, Peter Larkin's poetry is, above all, quick enough to register in high definition the complex promise of the on-rushing world." --Chris Goode

"One who comes close to that challenge in the scientific specificity of his grammar is Peter Larkin. The idea of creating the pastoral through the absent, and a pastoral absence in nature, is both to reaffirm the independence of nature from human agency, and to lay claim to nature.  There's a spiritual hierarchy observable here that is not radical, but the integrity of nature as thing-in-itself is, as a thing not to be fetishised." --John Kinsella

"For Larkin, landscape is not so much a thing as a process, a kind of prosody marked by opening and by colonizing, to a rhythm not necessarily human."--Jonathan Skinner

"Peter Larkin’s sustained engagement with the poetics of scarcity registers the eco-philosophical ramifications of a resource economics now generating scenarios of absolute scarcity in the face of unlimited growth. Simultaneously, he explores something like a theological ontology of dedication, what it means to accept a mode of finite being with roots in the radicalism of Romantic ecologies, by which scarcity can be understood as prophetic."--Carol Watts

"Larkin indicates how one can only pay tribute to the rarity and uniqueness of the scarce by not appropriating it in a fraudulent poetic equivalence of pseudo-poverty, but rather by asymptotically approaching it, with genuine humility, from ever new angles." --John Milbank

"Peter Larkin’s near-microscopic focus upon what he sees allows us to become aware of what might lie behind his ‘ambivalent fascination." --Ian Brinton


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