‘Hook’ is the debut chapbook of Peter LaBerge, who, at the time of its publication in 2015, was an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. The collection of twenty-one poems is inspired by the lives of Matthew Shepard, a twenty-one year old gay man who was brutally murdered in 1998, and Bobby Griffith, also a twenty-one year old gay man who committed suicide after struggling to come to terms with himself.
The Connecticut born young LGBT poet has loads of talent and is not afraid to show it. He is contemporary in his themes, yet traditional in the way he makes poetry into a thing of beauty.
He uses essential, evocative, simple yet superbly complex language one could not believe having come from such a young mind if it weren’t for the overwhelming life force contained in every word that carries readers back to their own youth and reconnects them with the violence of the earth’s beginnings and of their own beginnings.
LaBerge mixes the sensual, the pastoral and the religious. “ I have named you Peter because he was the first/ apostle to learn the journey, to chart/ each hill of me.” The result is a burning fire of vitality that gives birth to the very essence of youth and the throbbing, agonizing, wonderful and indispensable shaping of identity.
The background is distinctly American: the wildness and vastness of the land against echoes of the pioneer’s religious zealotry. “Mothers warm/ rosary beads in their palms, learn/ what their sons do to men… . We bite into the world and taste/ the men kissing behind the bales of hay.”
Swinging between courage and fear, every poem is imbued with ambivalence. “Two boys tore a moment/ from itself like life/ from a bone.”
‘Hook’ reminds us that we cannot be, we cannot exist separate from the earth beneath our feet, separate from the desires of our flesh and from the yearnings of our selves. We are sexual beings and in it lies risk, but in it also lies our potential, our only true self, the only possibility of life. “ Inside the silo I undressed/ another man’s mouth. …The world invited rainwater/ between the lips of its wounds. …I kissed until my tongue/ set into trees.”
‘Hook’ is published by Sibling Rivalry Press, an independent press based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Its mission is to publish work that disturbs and enraptures.
Peter LaBerge is editor-in-chief of the ‘Adroit Journal’, a quarterly online literary magazine that showcases poetry, prose and art of those emerging in their field.