"W.T. Pfefferle's Peter Cobalt in the Weeds has crispness and an understated beauty in its language, and also an ever present sense that we're hearing not only the narrator's story, but our own, since the collection takes us through a life closely and honestly examined.
"Peter Cobalt in the Weeds takes you to the America between the big places and the big times, between sunset and dawn. Pfefferle creates concise moments, unfinished lists and pared down memory. These are poems made with the touch of a craftsman. there is something very real about Peter Cobalt's world."
Peter Cobalt, the hero of W.T. Pfefferle's latest book, has daddy issues, a failed marriage, and a plucky daughter (Phoebe) who visits from out of state. Like so many American poets from Whitman to Springsteen, Pfefferle locates our overmastering desire on the open road. Like Paul Simon, he has the rarer ability to convince us that what's waiting at the next rest stop may be sacred.
In work that feels eerie, almost voyeuristic, Pfefferle crafts subtly disarming poems that directly confront the reader and her relationship to his text. Maybe to poetry, in general? Like a fly on the wall, the reader is placed intimately, but also unnervingly, inside the psyche of Peter Cobalt, a kind of punk cowboy poet living in a world whose emotional bas relief seems rather Hopper-esque. There, the reader-as-fly-spy gleans strangely intimate details of Cobalt's life--what his daughter likes to eat, brief acts of violence he'd like to commit, disillusion about his life, the diminution of his loves, and his disbelief in the American dream--all the while wondering why she has been gifted with such richly phenomenological particulars. Is she being exhorted to act in some way that will help Cobalt? Is she supposed to identify with or, maybe, hate Cobalt? Is she titillating herself by watching Cobalt go about his daily life? What is she to do with all of this knowledge? The poems refuse any easy answers to these questions, and, I suspect, want to keep all of these possibilities in play. By theoretically enticing the reader to engage while simultaneously blocking her from doing anything--this is an imaginary protagonist after all!--the poems build a kind of raw, existential tension that gives a real depth and umami to Pfefferle's nice and neat writing style that might have otherwise allowed an inattentive reader to slip through it. A small, crystalline volume that is not to be missed!
W.T. Pfefferle’s third collection of poems is a breathtaking feat of voice, utterly convincing, impossible to forget. The American landscapes and interiors of “Peter Cobalt in the Weeds” are in sharp focus, in contrast to the messy lives of the characters who inhabit them. Pfefferle’s story is seamless and surprising, but it is the voice of his middle-aged narrator, a man desperate for redemption, that brings a thrilling unity to the proceedings. Cobalt is a ghosted dreamer on the run, a self-professed failure, but his journey through the past and present is nothing less than majestic.
Fans of WT Pfefferle’s work will want to pick up a copy of Peter Cobalt in the Weeds. The author of the award winning The Life and Meager Times of Pop Thorndike, My Coolest Shirt, My Bad Girlfriend, among others, hits just the right dissonant, melancholy, funny, and lyrical notes in Peter. Pfefferle loves creating speakers—his is a fictive poetics. As such, his poetry is a smooth carry over from his music with Bob Hate. In fact, the lyrics to “Gas Giants,” one of the best cuts from the Bob Hate cd that I have, Like a King, appear in Peter. You’ll love the hollow allure of the open highway in Texas, the betrayal of memory in a down-spiraling life, the desperate clutches at relationships. Above all, I’m reminded of Bruce Weigl’s words from his poem “The Impossible”: “Say it clearly and it’s beautiful, no matter what.” The poems of Peter say it clearly. Go ahead, get down in the weeds with Peter. You’ll find ruin, somber beauty, and moments of illumination.
I don’t get poetry, I never got poetry, I probably never will get poetry. But I get Pfefferle’s poetry. I can’t help it. These easy poems pull me in. Some make me cry, some make me laugh, most make me say yeah, I feel you, brother. Pfefferle’s are quintessentially American poems. There are a few cars, open roads, big skies, cigarettes, dive bars, dogs, and heart break. Oh man, the heartbreak. But always also hope, quintessentially American, sad persevering hope.