Tag Archives: Gary Beck

Two poems by Gary Beck

Nostalgia

Dissatisfied people
unhappy with poor choices,
lost opportunities,
aimlessly drifting,
often return
to place of birth,
sentimentally sad
they don’t find answers
why things went wrong.

 

 

Portrait V

Hedge fund operator
travels to his mega-yacht
in his limousine,
tinted windows shutting out
frightened faces of the jobless
worried about their next meal,
while he coos to his trophy wife
about the next billion.

 

 
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theatre. He has 11 published chapbooks. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways (Winter Goose Publishing). Perceptions, Displays, Fault Lines and Tremors, Conditioned Response (Nazar Look).

 

 

‘Resonance’, a poetry collection by Gary Beck. Reviewed by Mandy Pannett

Resonance by Gary Back. 
Dreaming Big Publications. ISBN: 9781523916405

 

Resonance begins with an introduction by Gary Beck taken from his longer essay The Evolution of Poetry, and I’d like to begin this review by looking at this as I feel the content is important, not only to the author himself as it sets out his personal direction for writing, but also is relevant to the role of poetry in this twenty-first century world.

 
‘I must deliver what I believe to be a necessary blunt message’, says Beck who has been frequently criticised for doing just that. In turn he is scathing about what he sees as ‘a type of indulgence’ whereby, in his opinion, the culture of western poetry (particularly in the States) seems to favour ‘an endless stream of ‘pictorial imagery’ based on ‘personal agonies and confessions’ which degrades ‘the uniqueness of verbal description’.  This is an age, continues Beck, ‘of insecurity and danger’ in which poetry has a diminishing influence on world events. There should be alternatives, he says, ‘to academic products and disclosures of angst’. Among these alternatives are the blunt messages of ‘direct communication’.

 
I had the pleasure last year of reviewing Gary Beck’s previous collection Conditioned Response which adopted the same hard hitting stance in its hatred of corruption, acquisition, consumption and media manipulation. Dire Prediction, the opening poem in Resonance attacks ‘bloated consumers’ and adds a plea for the return of ‘men and women/who will walk through fire, bullets, blood,/to protect us’ from the world of power where ‘men stand by the buttons/of weapons of mass destruction, eager to slay millions,/while we sit in comfort in our homes’ (Children of Deprivation). The scenario in Radiation Rhapsody is even more chilling for here we have a landscape that includes

 
……….No more rush hour.
……….No quick latte at Starbucks.
……….Just a large crater
……….that will glow at night
……….for the next hundred years.

Gary Beck, in his introduction, states that he may have abandoned ‘metaphor and simile’ in his preference for direct confrontation with social and political issues. Resonance, however, shows few signs of this. Certainly the language is stark but there is no shortage of lyricism. Condition Grave may attack an ‘aging land’ which is ‘tainted and diseased’ but it begins with memorable lines ‘What is the hunger of water-falls,/little men of tiny boats, flirting with whirlpools?’ Images from myths and legends are plentiful as in Mythos where the death of Balder in Asgard is a cause of lamentation as ‘the wind goes howling and shrieking/through naked trees’ and ‘The creaking of frigid limbs/splits the darkness/as the wild hunt goes on.’

The collection does also include some poems seemingly of a more personal nature. Opium Escape is one such where the narrator says ‘I watched you walk away/out of my dark, bewildered life./I cursed you then.’ I also like the imagery and lyricism of Fond Pause where memories of leaving/being left bring ‘thoughts of musty windmills,/mouse ghosts/unsqueaking in shuddering rafters’
However, it is the ‘tougher’ poems I prefer – the kind of poems Gary Beck has said he wants to write, that need to be written. Bleak Highway, I think, says all of it:

……….It is inky night.
……….We are driving, driving, driving
……….into the impenetrable blackness
……….of the heart of America.
……….There are no stars visible,
……….just never-ending darkness
……….broken only
……….by the passing gleam of headlights
……….from wanderers forever lost
……….in a confusing land.

Review of Conditioned Response by Gary Beck

Conditioned Response by Gary Beck
Pub: Nazar Look ISBN 9781517260934

Before I read this collection I was intrigued by the title Conditioned Response with its suggestions of manipulation and control over outcomes via a dispassionate programming of reactions to a given situation. The poems themselves spell out the implications of this, presenting a people ‘who have been conditioned/to the tao of acquisition’ (Misguided Education) and who barely notice the death ‘of one more soldier’ reported (if at all) by a media where ‘control of the viewers’ is ‘the ultimate prize’. (Gutenberg Weeps).

The cover and layout of the book is eye-catching – stark and clear in black and white. This suits a theme where outcomes match expectations, where responses are always the same with no opportunity for intervention or appeal. At the same time the ‘look’ of the book strikes me as deliberately ironic since nothing in the confused and suffering world shown here is clear-cut or black and white – the ordinary people who inhabit these pages are bewildered, apprehensive, waiting to be told how to think and how to act, over-burdened by the ‘demanding tasks’ that confront them, whether they be about ‘earning a livelihood,/suicide bombing,/educating children, ethnic cleansing’ (Detached Vision). It is all one and the same.

It is certainly a grim and negative world that Gary Beck presents where the whole tone of the collection is highlighted by his choice of vocabulary. There is an emphasis on words such as frugal, fear, pollution, trauma, intolerance, waste, grime and disease. Even the sun has ‘cancerous intent’ (Perilous Nudity) as it shines on a country where corruption is rife, where, in the sphere of politics, ‘yesterday’s enemy/is tomorrow’s friend’ (Statecraft), where drug dealers and users ‘erode the fabric / that sustains reality’ (Irony) and where a ‘shared environment’ is ravaged and diminished by ‘rampant consumption’ (Overdose). ‘From sea to tainted sea’, says the poet, ‘we deplete tomorrow/with chemicals,/biologicals/poisoning the earth.’ (Indictment)
.
One of the strongest poems in Conditioned Response, in my opinion, is Brief Freedom where the ‘message’ is conveyed through narrative and the plight of refugees and migrants is told through the sad tale of the caged pet house finch, ‘Mr. Fuzzy pate’, who continually sings ‘doleful songs’ until one spring day he hears and copies some nearby wild finches by bursting ‘into joyous song’. The tender-hearted daughter of the house, affected by the bird’s situation, releases him into freedom. However, his attempts to join others of his species are rebuffed. He is ‘pecked and pecked’ as an ‘unwelcome intruder’, chased away into the ‘long, cold night’ which he does not survive.

Gary Beck excels in writing poems that confront contemporary political and social issues. His language is clear, precise, tough and hard-hitting with a focus on direct and frequently monosyllabic verbs. An example of this is in Faces of Fear where worried families ‘wait, sit, twitch, pace, fret’. Similarly, in Feeding Cycle, hungry blue jays ‘puff up their feathers’ as they demand cashews and ‘shake,/cry, caw, yell.’

‘Could my pessimism be wrong?’ asks the author in the title poem Conditioned Response. ‘I hope so’, he adds, as he wonders ‘Have we lost the will/to compel change/from a disastrous course/that will lead to our undoing?’

This is an important collection, profound and urgent, demanding to be read and acted upon.

Mandy Pannett

Neural Impulse. Poem by Gary Beck

NEURAL IMPULSE

Highways of ambition
lead into our cities,
flammable institutions
that provoke competition
between the established
curators of the status quo,
and those demanding admission
to the gates of belonging,
urgent to do anything
to attain prosperity.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks and 1 other accepted for publication. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways (Winter Goose Publishing). Perceptions and Displays will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His novels include: Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press) Acts of Defiance (Artema Press). Flawed Connections has been accepted for publication (Black Rose Writing). His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. He currently lives in New York City