The Private Life of Robert Peters

March 6th, 2013

The Private Life of Robert Peters

He vaguely reads the news.
He knows Barrack is President,
otherwise the day is filled
with his quirky cheeriness.
His thin hairless legs elevate
in his cherished
dirty leather recliner.
He opens his wallet,
riffles his dollars,
doses, hands fold,
then gazes
at his bandaged baby toe.
What’s wrong with it?
Sweetie, it’s a “booboo pad”.
The private life without impiety
is now a bit public.

New CD/Mp3 Release

October 27th, 2009
low_res_cover_cd_robert_petersGoing Down The River In A Hayloft Coffin: the evocative years of Robert Peters (CD/MP3) is a music poetry album featuring the illustrious poet Robert Peters and music composer Harlan Steinberger. The record includes forty nine poems that are strung with a twinge of Gothic & glaciated enchantments sequentially evoking how a poet thaws and carves out his destiny distancing himself from his primordial Wisconsin roots. The poems start off with winning tales of model Ts, berry picking, sexuality among North wood folks and other vivid backwood encounters. There are variances of deer hunting and fishing expeditions fleshed out. The sequence forges to the present covering eulogies to his beloveds and poignant elegies to the folks who were such integral part of the poet’s life. In the midst of these violent, visceral, celebratory, and elegant tales there’s a silver cord that keeps these images astonishingly alive with high voltage and renderable music and lyrics.
Press Reviews
Mp3 Song Samples from the CD:
images-2.jpg Cousin Albert
images-2.jpg Father, Son, Cousin Country Western Band
images-2.jpg Son
images-2.jpg Howard Warner (Huntington Beach artist)
images-2.jpg I’m Now Eight Four
Purchase the CD/Mp3: CD Baby CD Baby badgeitunes61x15dark.gif


July 7th, 2014

hiding behind death



I take a peek back onto the global stage;

Syrian still killing their children

Iraq still killing their children.

Afghanistan still killing their children–

internecine, internecine, internecine!

Such bloody theatre makes one to retreat.


I rather hide behind my beloved bard’s

death mask reveling in mournful doldrums

than witness horrifying bloodbaths which

make Shakespearean plays read like

a glimmer-of- hope-fun-of-the-art fairy tales.

My own little corner of prayers is not going

to intercept ceasing the senseless acts.


I snap my finger like a match, hoping

for a second coming to say, “Halt!”

I now open my eyes hearing the Times thump

on my pavement while glancing at my bard’s

empty chair. Will I open the paper, read

that world wars are over forever more?


July 5th, 2014

Tribute to Robert

Last Friday, before heading up here, Linda and I attended a record release party for Michael C. Ford’sLook into each other’s ears. Harlan Steinberger, the producer and impresario behind Hen House Studios in Venice, made use of his new facilities in Venice to host one of the most impressive gatherings of poets on a single evening outside of any formal literary event in recent years. Everyone was delighted to see Michael’s remarkable blend of cultural skepticism and wistful irony still finding wide-spread support.

Perhaps the evening’s most delightful surprise was the presence of Paul Trachtenberg, the surviving spouse of the late Bob Peters. I had exchanged a few notes with Paul since learning of Bob’s death, and while Paul sounded in his messages, both to me and others on Facebook as if a kind of rare solace had taken possession and drenched his inner self with equanimity, I hardly expected him to be at Harlan and Michael’s party. Seeing Paul reminded me of his request that we remember and celebrate Bob’s life not in a public gathering, but in the privacy of our own reading. Get one of his books from your shelf, he urged us, and read a favorite poem.

For the past several days, I have been intermittently dipping into Gauguin’s Chair, a volume of selected poems from his first years as a poet. The title page reads “1967-1974,” but this refers more to the publication dates of the books from which the poems are drawn. (For reasons of sentiment, perhaps, the original sales slip is still in the book: 5-18-80. 4.95 plus 30 cents tax, purchased from A Different Light Bookstore: Gay Literature/Periodicals/Aesthetera. 4014 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Sunset), Hollywood, CA 90029 (213) 668-0629).

In an interview conducted by Billy Collins in April, 1974 (when Collins was a grad student at UC Riverside), Peters talked about how the sound of words is the primal attraction of poetry. “I keep sayingear when I talk about poets. I may perhaps be too attuned to sound. I luxuriate in splendid sounds in poems, my own as well as other people’s.” Peters had the rare ability to intermingle “splendid sounds” with a wide range of subject matter, including historical subjects such as Ann Lee of the Shakers or King Ludwig of Bavaria.

Peters began his creative career at a relatively late point in his life. The sudden death of his son, Richard, on February 10, 1960, at the age of four and a half, left Peters unable to derive sufficient meaning from his life as a professor of literature, and he began writing poems, many of which addressed the cauterizing loss of his child due to a one-day illness. These poems eventually were collected in Songs for a Son. As an example of the pleasure he took in “splendid sounds,” let us savor nine lines from a poem in that first book“Transformation”:

Between death’s

hot coppery sides

the slime of birth

becomes a chalky

track of bone

compressed in time

to slate, or gneiss,

or marble – pressed

lifeless into stone.

The overall pattern of iambic dimeter is remarked upon in a fine instance of metapoetry: “compressed in time” refers not just to the brevity of the son’s journey in life, but to the constricted metamorphosis enacted as “compressed” becomes “pressed” in the stanza’s penultimate line. The layered internal rhyme of gneiss and lifeless provides the solemn intonation that completes the move from slime to stone. Splendid concatenation, indeed!

As the kind of memorial requested by Paul, though, and since I am in mountains now, at 5,000 feet, I have decided to share with you a poem by Bob that is rarely (if ever) reprinted in anthologies. Here is part eight of “Mt. San Gorgonio Ascent”:

At a drop below

hangs a cloud, mercurial.

The mountain it claims

gloats green, lung-red, and blue.

Pines flare. Boulders

glow. Light falls

Total mountain,

total drift of mist,

of flesh. The trance

is my own.

My hand is a peach

attached to a limb

swung over a gorge.

It hangs beyond all reach

gathers ripeness in.

Ichor swells the vein,

proceeds to the nipple end.

A bee strikes, hovers over.

New Horizon

July 4th, 2014




My Robert loved reciting his proud

Eskimo Haiku: “Drip, drip, drip! Spring

has come into my livingroom.”  Now

I have a poem called grip, grip, grip.

I have a grip on grief,  i have a grip

on not telling lies,  I have a grip on moving,

plowing away avalanches of cobwebs

obscuring my thinking clearly, oh indeed.


You see, I am sissified cowboy who has been

on range of broken fences way way too long.

I’ve been lately avenging my cravenness.

This point, I’m going say I love you to everybody,

even ones I’ve felt slighted by, granted they may

have all reasons because of my shortsightedness.

I ponder now Robert Frost’s mended fences,

I have a front hedge that makes me neighborly.


So all and all weary worn but mending I’m proverbially

putting my newly refurbished saddle on my horsey.

Let me spelled out so plainly, I’m truly glad about all

this invigoration pulsating in my sheer existence.

By Cracky!  I’m Gordon MacRrae, “Oh, what a beautiful

morning” as I rise for another cup of Yuban, shutters open.


The New Studio in Venice

June 29th, 2014

Ford & The Doorshen house Studio









(Hen House Studios–June 27, 2014)

A premiere starring Michael C Ford
the seasoned baritonal bard got us all
looking in each other’s ear fait accompli.
His lyrics invoked invisible smoke permeated
the barely built studio’s sound booths
but soon be bards and new sound rockers
will be carrying uniquely this old bard’s cords.

I witnessed the unfolding of the gala

viewing Harlan the maestro of the studio

jam rehearsing on an one and only drum wishing
now I had asked the name of his beat. Ah yes!
I had the honor to assist the maestro’s mistress
unfolding the patio table cloths for the dignified

I had the honor to assist the maestro’s mistress
unfolding the patio table cloths topped with sturdy
candle lights & goblets of munchies for the dignified
motley guests to arrive with valets adorning the alley.


motley guests to arrive with valets adorning the alley.

The Mexican mobile caterer coasted  in feeding us
shrimp tacos all before and during the cast
of sound mixers unfolding their equipment for
infusing sounds of the deceased Ray Manzarek
of The Doors and ones still with us,  plus a choral
annexed musicians all enhancing Ford’s voice for being
the spoken instrument of innovative protest how sweet.

Lil Marlene

June 27th, 2014


Publisher’s Weekly Review

In this touching sequel to Crunching Gravel: A Wisconsin Boyhood, the poet recalls his search for self-knowledge and sexual identity as a young draftee in WWII. A gentle lad who grew up in a sheltered farm environment, he had to learn how to cope with emerging homosexual feelings while dealing with the supermacho culture of the barracks. He was assigned to the European theater of operations as a clerk, and his only combat experience was his own inner wrestling with sexual fantasies involving both genders. Wondering if God were somehow testing him, he refrained from homosexual relations despite the pressure from fellow GIs who flirted with him. On leave in Paris, he shared a female prostitute with a sergeant he secretly desired and later drifted into an awkward affair with a German woman while on occupation duty near Heidelberg. The highlight of his European hitch was his attendance at one of Marlene Dietrich’s more memorable concerts: “I loved this androgyne.” This elegantly written memoir has much to say about the relationship between sex and the military life. Photos. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With the anniversary of the end of World War II looming large on the cultural calendar, poet and critic Peters has written tenderly of his naïve entry into adulthood courtesy of the U.S. Army. He is neither sentimental nor mawkish in his coming-of-age story, which is made complicated by his ambivalence over his strong homosexual feelings. From his account of his boyhood home in rural, impoverished Wisconsin to basic training in South Carolina and finally to Europe, his lucid prose gives access to both the man and the child. It is a rare adult who can convey the anxieties of youth as vividly as Peters does. Readers encountering this chapter of his life will want to seek out his other memoirs, Crunching Gravel (Univ. of Wisconsin Pr., 1993) and Nell’s Story (Univ. of Wisconsin Pr., 1995) and will eagerly await the next installment. Recommended for public and academic libraries.‘David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Evocative Chair

June 27th, 2014


photo (4)



Back back in the seventh grade an

art teacher, “now paint something SAD”.

My little growing brain was so literal.

Classmates conjured on their canvases

dark clouds, willows,  and abstract hues

while I water-colored big tearful eyes.


I glanced at my teacher when I got up,

she averted her eyes but kindly sent

“you don’t get what the others do.”

It took me constant flashbacks to do.

It is not really wallowing, it is reality.

I now see an old empty tattered chair.


Burial of the Ashes

June 22nd, 2014





Oh, this is ancient theme

and what does it all mean?

Personification of the being!

I’m numb therefore calm to say

this pre-burial is public for

the celebrated being was too.


Does it make it easier for the theme

to hits us all one way or another

be it a loss of a child or a mother,

spouse, pet–we all know our losses.

And we all know there’s no textbook.


For me I will keep my stanzas to three

but personify my beloved ashes with

his little teletubby guarding his remains

boxed and covered by a mortuary cloth on

his apricot throne where he lived so much.

Robert Peters’ Obituary

June 21st, 2014
It’s true the Times’ obit of Bob has depth but I must quibble a bit. Bob liked Poet James Dickey and saw him as a mentor for showing Bob one can be a poet and a critic. Of course this is here say from Bob to me, Dickey once wrote him and said after reading Bob’s Songs for a Son, “You don’t know how original you are”. Bob was glowing telling me this. As for John Ashbery, Bob was fond of him. The Times reporter must of misinterpret RP’s essay on John Ashbery titled DICK AND JANE AT HOME IN CALIFORNIA, TRY TO SAY SOMETHING SIMPLE ABOUT jOHN ASHBERY’S “LITANY” as being critical instead of playful.

Whitney Otto: 

“He was my professor at UCI, introducing me to, among other things, the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I adored his classes, and went to see his “performance” of the Blood Countess. I had read poetry before, even had a class or two, but no teacher ever made me understand that the complexity is the draw, not the barrier. He was a true influence in my life, even though he never knew it.”



June 16th, 2014




Omigosh!  Did I live with a guy

for forty years with multi-personalities?

An eminent critic once said, Peters was

“our premier verse-biographer”.

Now I know why I was so vastly entertained.


My baby became Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria

who left palatial castles all over dreamland

My baby became a Cornish Vicar Robert Hawker

who gave proper burial for sea strewn sailors.

My baby became the blood countess Elizabeth Bathory

who bathed in the bloodof  virgins for maintaining her youth.

My baby became the explorer Elisha Kent Kane

who explored the Arctic with fatalistic results.

My baby became Mother Ann Lee founder of the Shakers

who was believed to be the female version of Jesus Christ.

My baby became 19th century British artist Benjamin Haydon

who is now a forgotten romantic and pitiful aesthete left impoverished.

My baby became Orange County Serial Killer Randy Kraft

who psychotically stolen lives of many lost boys, now walled away.


All these years, he kept the personalities hidden from me

reserved only for his traveling troubadour’s stage performances.

Some of his most darkest character had some audiences exiting,

I want to say one thing or two his personality reserved for me

was an undying and unconditional loving teddy bear–I feared him not.



May 24th, 2014



Around the corner seven-eleven

java nestling on the lap, crosswords

unfolded above the knees, his lovable

cane crisscrossing the thighs,

his needed-washing blanket

mummifying him in a repose.


Yesterday he had a great fall

whence rising to the john–an abrasion

on his forehead, bloody big toe &

a contusive  ado on his hand.

“I’m alright, I’m alright’–yea, yea.

His will and I got him dusted off.


Kaiser, ER ward vied for nite monitoring-

but my baby would not have it-onward home.

Here we are after a rise & shine needing

more shut-eye & I wait to reheat his java.

“He’s alright”, He’s alright” for the nonce.