This collection of poetry opens with an extract from the poet's essay 'The Evolution of Poetry' in which he states:
'I found myself more concerned with the message than with the 'poetic' quality of poetry.'
which later, he follows up with:
'the guardians of the gates of poetry should allow examination of the problems of the world, with direct communication, in order to extend the diminishing influence of poetry on our times.'
As expected then, this is a book of pared back poetry, shorn of ornament, direct and prosaic and dealing with issues including war, drugs, animal rights and the future of the human race. There are also some poems of lost love and unsuccessful romantic relationships. Rhymes are relatively rare, though when used, are generally effective:
'...who will haul away my ashes
if the whole world crashes?'
from Radiation Rhapsody
and this from Sequoias
I walk a lonely path past dying trees
their limbs outstretched in supplicating pleas.
I must admit though, particularly now, when so many things feel grim and depressing, that sometimes when I read poetry like this
We have read about the politics, passively
that bring endless armaments construction.
We should heal the world of raging madness
(and for all I admire Beck's engagement with issues and agree with his rejection of self-obsessed poetry) I long for the healing balm of lyric poetry and there are poets out there who combine lyricism and concern for issues. It doesn't need to be one or the other. In fact just as sugar coating can make a medicine easier to take, the right amount of lyricism can help make the message easier to absorb.
So this is a book to read if you are concerned about issues, though you may want to read it in small doses, to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the issues that our world faces.