Friday 9 September 2016

Perceptions by Gary Beck

I published several of Gary Beck's poems on Bolts of Silk, my (now discontinued) poetry journal.

Perceptions is Beck's second volume of poetry this year. Like Resonance (which I reviewed a few months ago, but I've copied and pasted the review into this post below) this book is full of issue based poems, dealing with topics that too many poets ignore, including the USA's place in the world, unemployment, Middle East politics, the information age, child soldiers, war, terrorism and environmental issues.

This is a long book containing lots of poems, most of which are heavy and serious, though some are very short. There are occasional beautiful lines such as “We do not sing the fraying dream”
from Anthem but much of the language is ordinary, prosaic even

It's easier to deny
harmful effects
of global warming
than to lose profits
saving the ocean.

from Denial is cheaper

This certainly has the advantage that these poems are never obscure, you immediately know what the poem is about (and that's not always true in poetry) but it does make the collection relentlessly depressing to read all at once.  I'd definitely recommend this as a book to dip into for those moments when you feel the need to be reminded that poetry can deal with issues or when you're seeking a creative response to a world issue. 

Perceptions by Gary Beck is available here


My review of Resonance by Gary Beck (previously posted here)

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.

Resonance by Gary Beck is available here
So these are books to read if you are concerned about issues, though you may want to read them in small doses, to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the issues that our world faces.


sage said...

His work sounds interesting. Have you read The Walking Man's blog? He writes from Detroit and his poetry often has a harsh raw edge that comes from his local and from the craziness of the world (both in his neighborhood and across the globe)

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Sage - thanks for the recommendation, I'll check out the Walking Man's blog

Bill said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've just added both titles to my Kindle.

I have to say, in the light of a quotation from the poet that you include, that I don't regard a poem's "poetic qualities" as add-ons. Form is the process by which a subject matter becomes a content.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Bill I agree with you entirely, form is vital to poetry.