Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, forthcoming 2011). Dew is also a regular reviewer for Rain Taxi Review of Books. His Web site is spencerdew.com.
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“Into pieces of sorrow we broke,” writes Eric Beeny, in a collection of poems wherein clauses pile up, syntax fragments, and, amid moments of frustration and confusion, there are glimpses of
always a new
beauty to us,
as if so simply and with stars
A sparkling mosaic assembled from shattered language, leaving the reader, at times, “violently astonished,” the writing here exemplifies a struggle to communicate:
Based on what it was like,
We are awash, of late, in paranoid and partial theories of language—comments on grammar and control from a murderer, discourse on discourse and its repercussions from almost everyone else. Coherency is torn apart, and we’re left in a world of coinages such as “conscious dreaming” and warped re-meanings of deeply historical and specifically significant notions such as the “blood libel.” The crosshairs of a gun’s scope become “surveyor’s marks” and, far worse—far more confusing, distorting, and dangerous—various prominent cultural voices argue as if responsibility were wholly collective, or, in the inverse, as if an individual’s thoughts exist in utter disconnect from society. We live in a world where the woodwork chatters, and it is impossible, for me at least, not to locate my reading of Beeny’s experiments in language with the logic of madness consuming lives in our country. These are poems, too, that contain such pain, the garbled cries of “creatures, / injured and beautiful.” Consider
Dream to me,
it was enchanting anymore, and I am
all and this, I think why,
I really much care
isn’t for all certainties
yet I like everything interested...
By the name how absurd we always learned we would, told you it of the other so
strangely, me, just for you, and the curious wouldn’t play, so you wouldn’t.
The claustrophobia of such phrasing, the terror contained therein—this is as much a mark of Of Creatures as the occasional cloud breaks of sense, where emotion cuts through the “endless etceteras, / tides of etceteras” and leaves us in the middle of “new scenery ... looking / like a consequence.” Of Creatures is a viscerally disturbing journey into the mechanics of language, a desperate scratching against the limits of poetry, gouging, sometimes, deep into that constraint, recognizing the “paralytic blessings” that structure our lives.
Official Eric Beeny Web Site
Official Gold Wake Press Web Site