Eat the peach – the posthumous collection of Carlisle UK’s own and beloved Nick Pemberton, is an exemplar of the work of an exceptional man and poet of his time – a collection that declares itself front and center, and ‘in your face,’ to the slightly malevolent and commodified facelessness of modern society.
A collection that editor Francesca Halfacree notes was quietly tucked away for possible publication after his death, it is a necessary and truly marvelous testament to a generous poet in the Northern English borderland town of Carlisle, a rangy sort of fellow who matched the temper of his place with a hip beat vibe that in other circumstances might have strutted boldly the stages of 60s counterculture.
Pemberton was one of the UK’s best representatives of the road warrior, with a heart sometimes as great as the horizon.
He celebrates the resilience of artists who tell ‘true stories that some nights take flight and some nights fall apart – that’s how things go with an improvised art.’
He laments those for whom ‘rage has turned to acceptance he knows sadness and self knowledge are all that will endure; – that everything else – love, family, friendship and the dreams and memories of these things – 15 will one day just be blown like dust or straw from the scrubbed stone step at the kitchen door.’
He throws up his hands at the blindness of society to the riches of an artist like himself. “I could sit and chew the fat for hours with you over these half remembered fragments of this thing that, because it is shared, we call our culture,” he tells his bank manager. “but the money, I am afraid – since it seems my letters, unlike yours, are worth, in this world, nothing – I still do not have.”
And he makes his plea that his children may inherit the earth around him, ‘not as a place where you pay for a signed copy of the view – but as home (a hippy too long in rural surroundings). ‘
There is wit, philosophy, dry humor and compassion galore in this collection. That and a connectedness to both pop culture and the more arcane provinces of literature. Typical to the artist/advocate/outsider model so prevalent in the heady 1960s, Pemberton references everyone from Dylan to Springsteen, Leadbelly to Steinbeck; TS Eliot, William Blake, Milton and more.
The book, writes Emma McGordon in her introduction, “is intertextually rich, culturally aware and once again echoes MacSweeney, placing Nick, like Barry, in a generation of men full of the promised freedoms of the 60s and yet confusingly constrained by a modern world of hashtags and crypto-currencies.’
This is the poetry of a man who reminds us of our better selves — what it means to identify among the outcast, the misunderstood, the voices in the wilderness, the stubbornly resistant artist.
Eat The Peach has already joined reference copies now held in The British Library, The Bodleian Library in Oxford University, Cambridge University Library, The National Library of Scotland, The National Library of Wales and Trinity College Dublin. Reserving a spot on your own poetry library shelf would be more than amply rewarded.
Fare ye well, my fine gen’rous man!