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ISBN: 978-1-62557-073-4
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World’s Largest Ball of Paint

Publication Date: April 2024


2022 St. Lawrence Book Award Winner

Charlie Peck’s debut collection World’s Largest Ball of Paint began with a world record. Through a series of fragmented narrative poems, World’s Largest Ball of Paint navigates place and self, memory and remembering. Peck uses a cast of characters and poetic form to reckon with the past and the present, layer by layer.


Charlie Peck’s lush, straightforward storytelling nevertheless holds something back. There are secrets here, lyric disconnects, the ancient ache in everything. Which is to say, these observant poems ring true whether they are or not. I bet both, as all treasures are. Honest and surprising, edgy and tender, urgently meditative, even shocking at times: these poems, thus this poet. Proof: “When I went down to the woods that first day of winter/I found a car door against a tree trunk, the paint rubbed thin/from deer shedding their velvet…” This is how legends start. And go where? I had to find out.
–Marianne Boruch

Loss is unavoidable,” our speaker encounters on an ancient bottle of Vick’s VapoRub, and from the very beginning Charlie Peck plunges us right into this loss. Into loneliness. Into the mind and vision of a contemporary, self-aware Prufrock who downs cases of Hamm’s and gas station fried chicken to the soundtrack of Prince and the Seinfeld theme on loop. World’s Largest Ball of Paint crosses from the expanse of midwestern cornfields to the storm-riddled south and everywhere, everywhere, these poems take us, we won’t be shielded from a thing. Not hurricanes, not racoons bloating in the back alley, not the knives laid-off cooks roll up andtake home. Peck knows something about kitchens, about the fierce drama on and off the line, but also about how, no matter the frenzied dinner rush, no matter having to prepare a co-worker’s syringe, one must craft a meticulous mise-en-place. In one poem, the edge of a poisoned tuna can is a “fanged lip.”In another, the speaker recognizes, in an amateur painting, the desire to“organize pain into something useful.” Charlie Peck is certainly no amateur, but in World’s Largest Ball of Paint this desire becomes nearly electric. You might get shocked. But trust me, you’ll come right back, touch these brilliant poems again and again. 
–Corey Van Landingham

World’sLargest Ball of Paint is written by a man who has earned his living as a cook. Charlie Peck speaks of what he knows well, ‘the smell / of pork fat &garlic leading the way to the steel noodle counter.’ His poems feed us. They feed us hunger, want, loneliness, loss, addiction, violence, boredom, depravity, laughter, grief, joy. The menu is memory. Watch out. Eating this poetry can burn your tongue. Bite down. The words may bite you back, but they will fill your mouth completely. They talk back. This is a book like the best Gaeng Keow Wan, green Thai curry. It is habanero hot.
–Donald Platt

About the Author

© Elisabeth Bay

Charlie Peck

Charlie Peck grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and received his MFA from Purdue University. His poetry has appeared previously in Cincinnati Review, Ninth Letter, Massachusetts Review, and Best New Poets 2019, among others. His first collection, World’s Largest Ball of Paint, is the winner of the 2022 St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press.

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