Pitying The Planet (Peter Cash)

Peter Cash’s ninth collection of poems – his second hardback – was written between 1980 (when he was teaching at Trent College and living in Draycott, Derbyshire) and 1995 (by which time he had moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme School and was living in Staffordshire).

No less formal and personal than his earlier work, Pitying the Planet expresses his compassion for all creatures great and small and meditates with special poignancy upon lost landscapes, lost loves and lost lives. The collection covers the period from his success in The National Poetry Competition of 1982 to his three prize-wins at the Lancaster Literature Festival.

On 1st November 2008, The Times listed his ‘six favourite modern poems’ – among which were D. H. Lawrence’s Snake, Robert Lowell’s Skunk Hour and Edward Thomas’ Adlestrop … Peter Cash’s reading informs much of the writing in this collection. He cites the end of Middlemarch (1874) where George Eliot concludes that “things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been … owing to the number [of good men and women] who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.” He cites also A Passage to India (1924) where E. M. Forster takes up Lawrence’s stance towards the snake and insists that all creatures be “embraced” and no creatures – not even “the jackals” and “the wasps” – be excluded “from our gathering” (Chapter 4). For this collection, an alternative title, he says, would be A Gathering.

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