Regrounding a Pilgrimage by John Matthias & John Peck


Introduction by Robert Archambeau, Edited by Katie Lehman

For many years the poets John Matthias and John Peck, friends since their time together at Stanford in the 1960s and often paired by reviewers and critics, have wanted to combine Matthias’s long poem about the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela and Peck’s long meditation on the subject, “Agensay, Agengrownde, Matthias,” the first version of which appeared in Robert Archambeau’s selection of essays on Matthias’s work, Word Play Place. In this special edition, where the two pieces appear in extended dialogue, their long-standing wish has been achieved. Katie Lehman has made this possible by re-editing both texts, and offering Peck the opportunity to extend his meditation in many ways. More than that, she has included Archambeau’s essay on Matthias’s work, “History, Totality, Silence,” as an introduction. Readers will find these texts both challenging and rewarding.

Matthias and Peck have both published many volumes of poetry, including Matthias’s three volumes of Collected Poems and Peck’s recent long poem Cantilena (all from Shearsman Books). Dos Madres has published a previous collaborative volume, Revolutions, involving Matthias, Archambeau, and the printmaker Jean Dibble. Of the Compostela poem itself, Guy Davenport wrote upon first reading it in manuscript: “It is good, beautiful, strong poetry. It is doing something great, and I revel in the privilege of seeing it being made. Shivers of recognition. And all of it so achieved a poem.” Of Peck’s work, the TLS has said: “Peck has established himself as a major figure, opening up territory no one else has attempted.” When Matthias first read Peck’s essay, he wrote to Archambeau that he thought that the essay was more interesting than his poem. But this is not a competition, but a fellowship, which includes the editor and the author of the introduction.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 230
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: November, 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-948017-29-9


“Matthias is a Goliard – one of those wandering souls out of a Dark Age in our own time . . . a scholar whose head is filled with learning and the fame of amorous women and the heretic remembering witch-hunts yet to come.” —Robert Duncan

“John Peck addresses himself to honoring and extending the whole of the tradition he is heir to.” —Donald Davie

“If you want to see somebody having fun while thinking provocatively about contemporary poetry, try Archambeau. I always do.” —Stephanie Burt


Via Tolosana, Via Podiensis.
There among the tall and narrow cypresses,
the white sarcophagi of Arles

worn by centuries of wind & sun,
where Charlemagne’s lieutenants it was said
lay beside Servilius & Flavius

and coffins drifted down the Rhône
on narrow rafts to be unloaded by St. Victor’s monks,
they walked: Via Tolosana.

Via Podiensis: They walked as well from
Burgundy through the Auvergne,
slogged along volcanic downland up into Aubrac

and on through Languedoc to Conques
and gazed into the yellow morning light falling
from above the central axis through

the abbey’s lantern tower
and praised St. Foy, and praised as well
with Aimery Picaud their guide

the names of certain travelers
who had long before secured the safety of their way
and also other ways: Via Podiensis,

Via Lemosina, Via Turonensis.


John Matthias has published some thirty books of poetry, translation, criticism, and scholarship. For many years he taught at the University of Notre Dame, where he is still Editor at Large of Notre Dame Review. Shearsman Books publishes his three volumes of Collected Poems, as well as the uncollected long poem, Trigons, his most recent volume of poetry, Complayntes for Doctor Neuro, two books of memoirs and literary essays, and the novel Different Kinds of Music. Two of his long poems appeared in the last Dos Madres collaborative volume (with Archambeau and printmaker Jean Dibble), Revolutions.

John Peck has published ten books of poetry, including Contradance (University of Chicago Press, 2011), I Came, I Saw: Eight Poems (Shearsman, 2012), and Cantilena (Shearsman, 2016). He taught English at Princeton, Mount Holyoke, the University of Zurich, and Skidmore, edits and translates for the Philemon Foundation (co-translator of Jung’s Red Book and the forthcoming Black Book), and practices Jungian analysis in Maine.

Robert Archambeau is a poet and literary critic whose books include Home and Variations and The Kafka Sutra and critical studies Laureates and Heretics, The Poet Resigns: Poetry in a Difficult World and Inventions of a Barbarous Age: Poetry from Conceptualism to Rhyme. He studied with John Matthias at the University of Notre Dame in the 1990s and has taught there and at Lund University in Sweden. He now teaches at Lake Forest College. A new book, The Valley of Saying: Poetry and Uselessness from Coleridge to Ashbery, is due soon from Routledge.

Katie Lehman is a freelance editor based in Bloomington, Indiana. While her focus is primarily on academic manuscripts, she has also worked with specialized and trade publications. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Notre Dame, and her poems have appeared in such publications as Great River Review and CMW Journal.

Additional information

Weight 14.7 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .75 in