I do book reviews. Kindle book reviews, where I am listed for poetry but in fact get all kinds of work for consideration.
I often post a review elsewhere at the request of the author; GoodReads is a common target.
Beck has provided us with ninety-nine poems on the human condition. As always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the point: Beck’s work.
Beck usually ambushes his reader in a book’s first poem, and Anthem keeps up this tradition. The idea of patriotism wrapped up in growing, or at least potential, prosperity, meets with a dose of reality. To quote Pogo, we have met the enemy, and it is us.
Beck will make you think, especially about the maelstrom that was Iraq after the American-led adventure. Turn to Iraq Monologues for a series of scary insights into what it is to live in such a ‘liberated’ land.
In Beck’s Excursion, I found a disturbing ‘echo’ of Robert Frost’s The Bonfire (war is for everyone, for children too.) In Beck’s poem, tough times are reflected in a child’s conversation. Then again in Original Sin, our damaging of our own surroundings is captured: “We have tainted the air, /poisoned the water, /depleted our food, /until once again /the few have much, /the many little. /The difference this time…” Turn to this poem and read it for yourself. Like Frost, Beck tells us unpleasant truths.
A recurring theme in this collection is the ambiguity of the United States’ position as ‘world protector.’ This occurs in Misunderstood, where it is impossible for the USA to get it right in the eyes of all.
This collection explores our perceptions. We are complicit in the evil deeds of others inasmuch as we allow ourselves to be: “unaware /of the seething torments /driving some to despair /who renounce…” This is a quote from Brute Force.
Beck does venture into other aspects of culture, as in the longer poem Art History, where we find this: “An enterprising monkey /became a wealthy painter /by splashing paint on canvas /and signing it Jackson Rhesus. /New schools of art came and went/ quickly and to such acclaim /that buyers needed experts /to tell them what they liked.” The poem goes on much more from there than you might expect. A fun read.
Conversely Beck can convey tough situations, as in Invocation, where we find this: “I think of my AK-47 /hidden under the floor boards.” This is just one passing thought in a person’s head. Scary.
The dilemma of fighting domestic terror is captured in Who Will Feed Us. If you want ‘literary’ work, turn to A Moral Tale A La Shelley, which begins: “I met a merchant from an oil-poor land, /who said: “Two vast and rusting derricks stand….” The parallel is both clear and clever.
I must confess my enjoyment of A Turbulent Bird is partly because we Au Canada are watching the development of the F-35. Apparently the V-22 Osprey was a similarly ‘challenging’ defense project. I suggest you read the poem, and then google for the Wikipedia description of the plane and its history.
If you were scrolling for the tiny carps, there may be an echo. If there are any typos, I didn’t catch them. Nothing. Let’s get back to the star count.
My personal guidelines, when doing any review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. There are a lot of poems here that spoke to me, and your favourites may be different from mine. Still, four stars from this curmudgeon seems right on: highly recommended. Enjoy.
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