Loads of Learned Lumber

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Joshua Beckman, _Take It_

I PICKED UP a copy of Shake when the Wave Poetry Bus came through our town in (I think) autumn of 2005 and enjoyed it, and I likewise enjoyed this volume, published last year. Like the poems in its predecessor, these poems asymptotically approach traditional poetry without getting there, and it's the not-getting-there that intrigues and delights. The lines approach, even flirt with iambic pentameter without ever resolving into it; the images seems always just about to click into focus as a narrative, then escape. Antique-sounding constructions -- "But this convinced him not," "Dark mornings shown thy mask / made well thy visage and voice" -- jostle with the contemporary colloquial:

Ousted by the neighbors from what had been
a perfectly comfortable dream, I wandered into
the hallway and fuck if there wasn't this kid
sort of straddling one of my houseplants,
pulling at its leaves, and the parents, they were
just standing there, looking at me!

In several poems, Beckman creates a kind of tricky syncopation by rhythmically counter-pointing dashes and line breaks; he also likes a nicely buried rhyme. A good example of both devices at once:

Dark and sparkled boot -- beloved book from
which we learn -- your intense eyes -- I close
upon you now this hand -- and north of here
the snow will land -- as once you did gently
lift your pen from the letter --

I'm reluctant to suggest the book contains anything so obvious as a message, but it does often seem to reflect the national shame and bleakness of the closing Bush years: "So untrue my firm countrymen, so untrue." The book's second poem, the one beginning "Through God's grace the little drops," somehow seems to me what Lincoln's Second Inaugural might have sounded like, had Lincoln been stoned when he delivered it, and had he spend much less time reading the KJV and much more reading Flow Chart.

I love the way Beckman begins his poems. Consider this:

I am made of butter. I am wrapped in gold,
I am forgotten as a friolator forgets a haddock,
and then I tell my sweet love that I want to spill
coffee all over her bottomside, and she tells her friends,
so they take her to the country where they all
go for walks and play honesty games.

Man, we've all been there.


筱涵 said...
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吳婷婷 said...
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