Praise for The Currency of His Light (Available now from Barnes & Noble):
- Roy Beckemeyer, in his shining new collection of poetry, explores, questions, laments, and celebrates the mystery and power of light in language, art, spirit, and life. His deep and abiding investigation of the natural world generously gives these poems grounding, heft, and precision so that what’s often beyond words can take flight. From murmuration at large to robins in particular, he brings what’s often the backdrop of our lives into clear view, amplifying “the last August cicada saws” as well as the “Vidalia onion’s dream.” His homages to the arts and artists, including Monet and Milton in the title poem, reveals the sparks that make art, “…coined by eye and hand/ and light’s merciless vicissitudes.” Going deeper into mercy and its opposite, he writes of grief, love, and memory with startling tenderness, especially in the villanelle, “A Father Who Lives Longer Than His Son.” Beckemeyer speaks intimately to the reader and his beloved, telling us, “You are the beguiling yin-ness / and yang-ness of mythology’s shape changer,” encapsulating in this poem how light is the ultimately shapeshifter. This whole book is an ode to wonder, and the kind of wonder we especially need to illuminate our lives right now.
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas 2009-13, author of How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems
- Roy Beckemeyer’s penetrating and beautiful new book of poems, The Currency of His Light, illuminates the wonders and mysteries of the natural world, the depths and hopes of seasoned love, and the power of his elegant poetry to enlighten and delight. These are poems to relish; they lead to myriad inroads of joy. And throughout is the light. At first blush, we notice how it quickens Beckemeyer’s perceptions and poetics. In his expert hands, the vividly painted birds of the Kansas plain burst into a sharply focused new existence: They not only obey their nature, but they incarnate the poet’s words, emotions, and meditations in their fluid movements over the fields. What’s more, their avian glory is underwritten by the poet’s imagination – the hidden fourth dimension of all things. With it, nature blossoms into its full essence, encompassing the yearnings of our lives, as well. And for Beckemeyer, nature’s finest demands poetry’s best. And in this book, his best, he delivers. As with E. E. Cummings, love transports Beckemeyer’s poetry to its rightful place between heaven and earth. The light shines on it, and beauty blooms from the shadows, sparkling with elevated diction, visceral imagery, keen metaphor and “the color of blessing.” Highest recommendations.
—Arlice Davenport, author of Kind of Blue: New Poems.
This website was awarded first place in the Kansas Authors Club 2019 Author’s Website Competition.
Praise for Mouth Brimming Over (Available now from Blue Cedar Press):
- Amazon Reader Review of Mouth Brimming Over (12/29/2019): “1. This is a book made by a person having a passionate love affair with language.
See the opening poem “With Apologies to Walt” that announces his intentions to twirl words, the body, and his relationship with poetry.
‘. . . I sing the exudate and transudate/the rheum, the chyle, serum and semen, the breast milk, / the bile, the amniotic fluid, the aqueous humor of sight.’ Such a gorgeous list of less familiar words, embedded in the rhythms of meaning.
2. Beckemeyer is a clear observer of the world who goes deep into what he sees.
One of my favorites is ‘Late Summer Haibun’ which is serious about ‘houses with shuttered eyes, lawns lazed over with August haze.’ Along with Accuras, F150s, sidewalks, insects, and plants: ‘A convict-striped bumblebee rumbles up to the flower bed, shuffles into a bellflower, backs out dazed by a flash-bang explosion of fluorescent yellow pollen.’ In ‘Topology,’ shed clothes on the floor become landscapes.
3. Beckemeyer is a skilled metaphorist who doesn’t limit himself to safe comparisons. For example, in ‘Hail, Amphibia,’ a hailstorm is a recidivist criminal. In ‘Sunset,’ the stars resonate a musician: ‘…like a supernova altering/the last gravity of the day, // like a mouth-harp player / bending / from B to B-flat, / the last note of evensong.’
Here’s a favorite metaphor from ‘Hospice’:
‘My heart’s two
halves: a pair of old
4. These poems illuminate the inner world as much as the outer, the idiosyncratic memories and mental experiences of a thinking and feeling person. Beckemeyer lets the reader into the most intimate inner space in poems like ‘Rainstorm Reminiscence’ with
‘. . . a glint of sunlight caught/in a droplet of water at the tip/of a remembered leaf, the merest/eye-blur hint of spectral colors arching/across a sky of billows.’
We know this is not artifice, but a specific storm from a particular life moment.
5. With a scientist’s eye and love for details, the poet honors both what is thought of as important and beautiful as well as what we might believe is not poetic. In ‘Geometria,’ he writes about hopping frogs and dogs shaking off water. Beckemeyer is willing to enter the consciousness of other living things with sensitivity, such as a dog in ‘Gavotte’ and mollusks in ‘At Home on the Shore.’
‘And somewhere, in some decrepit
tenement of an oyster bed,
a Wellfleet or Kumamoto slushes
seawater through its gills,
haphazardly adds to its shaggy,
craggy shell, and devotes all its art
instead to the pearl it hides within.’
(Listen to the sounds in that stanza – the T and short A sounds, the slant rhymes, all of which might add up to the sound of seawater slushing. And maybe points to the metaphoric poet creating a poem/pearl.)
6. This is a book made by a person who reads deeply and broadly. To list the authors he names explicitly and carefully like the scientist he is, he intimates at a deep reading life. This reader not only gleans information from the text, but digests what he reads and brings it into his creative work. The book is rich with epigraphs that sometimes contextualize a poem, like ‘Words for Snow’ that starts with a quotation from indigenous Arctic people. Sometimes the epigraph is the spark for a poem, like his ‘Fifty-Eighth Anniversary’ that invokes poet Traci K. Smith’s metaphor of love as a tango and transforms it into a two-step/pas de deux. Beckemeyer is a great proponent of poet Kim Addonizio’s sonnet form she calls sonnenizio. Several are included here.
Favorites of mine that display one or more of these qualities are ‘Artifact’ with its astounding emotion and surprising image honed to so few words, ‘Apologia for Adam’ in which God is personified as a researcher, and ‘A paper clip’ which is a lovely little ode to the ordinary that becomes heroic and historical in the poet’s prodigious imagination.”
—Lori Brack, poet, and author of The Museum of Breath.
- In Mouth Brimming Over, his finest poetic work to date, Roy Beckemeyer explores the great Whitmanesque themes of the body, the self, the teeming earth, the wide-open horizon. Cosmic expansionism and natural inclusiveness resonate throughout these verses—counterparts to the poet’s clear-eyed vision and bull’s-eye thinking about the world and our place in it. For Beckemeyer, to sing the body is to sing the cosmos; the part contains the whole. By focusing on each artful aspect, he opens poetry as embodied breath—slipping past the polished facade of language to reach the unknown edge of creation. Take “Red Tide,” for example—Beckemeyer exalts the color red to an almost metaphysical level: “Their blood-drop shapes, the only heat / in spring’s chill, encapsulate passion, / enflame youthful imagery. Girls slick / tulip’s scarlet onto lips, boys lick their lips / for want of that color, hormones surge / and rush onto the shores of April, all / its barriers breached by a red tide / of tulips.” Mouth Brimming Over beautifully demonstrates that a poem thrives as a living organism; it breathes itself well beyond the finite limit of words. We inhale and are blessed.
—Arlice Davenport, poet and retired books page editor for The Wichita Eagle.
- Mouth Brimming Over overflows with the music inherent in strong poetry. These poems embrace expansively vibrant travels and tenderly-acute observations, singing all the way. Altogether, this remarkable collection encompasses poems in motion across time and space, botany and engineering, flights and landings, fire and water, earth and body, and the holy and the ordinary. Continually engaging with the precise wonders in a moment, Beckemeyer also focuses on the temporal in so many ways and so many poems, such as in “Gravestones and Bones” in which he reminds us of “all the vastness of the world’s/ varied fastnesses crumbling/ in their own sweet time.” Poet Gregory Orr wrote in “To Be Alive,” his short poem, “If we’re not supposed to dance/ Why all this music?” Roy Beckemeyer answers this rhetorical question by amplifying the music of being alive and illuminating the dance of being human.
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author of Miriam’s Well
- Roy Beckemeyer brings a scientist’s eye and a poet’s ear to the page in his latest book. Whether he’s analyzing the geometry of the Trinity or pouring Whitman into a sonnet— “I sing the body hydraulic”—Beckemeyer blends gravity with wit in this elegiac tribute to the permanence of love amid the decay of the natural world.
—Wyatt Townley, Poet Laureate of Kansas Emerita
STAGE WHISPERS was awarded the 2019 Kansas Authors Club Nelson Poetry Book Award, which was created by Raymond and Margaret Nelson – Dr. Raymond Nelson and Margaret Nelson joined KAC in 1979. Both served in various offices, including state president, Raymond from 1984-1986, and Margaret Nelson from 1994-1995. The couple began awarding the Nelson Poetry Book Award in 2002
Praise for Stage Whispers (Available NOW from Meadowlark Books):
- “True to the haunting cover, the tragic-comic masks that harken to ancient whisperings, the poet applies deft strokes inspired by a long life rich in experience and intellect. From a light whimsical touch of ‘Spring, Bittersweet as Separation’ to the darker tones of ‘Lyric’ and ‘Family’, then the raw ache of ‘Love’s Last Letter’ and ‘Early Onset’, and the final tender parting of ‘Breathe’ and ‘Prayer of Letting Go’, he never wavers, the gyro of his heart holds true, yielding admirable sentiment and insight to savor and reflect upon, shared by a warmly human, poetic soul.”
—Melvin Litton, author of From the Bone, and Idylls of Being.
- “In precise language and varied forms, Roy Beckemeyer’s third book of poetry, Stage Whispers, welcomes readers into thoughtful narrative observations that are personal and political, serious and light-hearted. Like the multitude of grasses on the Kansas prairie, these handsomely crafted poems are grounded in nature’s deep richness and beauty yet contemplate Christianity, science, and humanity, dragonflies, stars, morels, red-tailed hawks, the snows of Badakhshan, sandhill cranes, and great blue herons, all balanced against God riding by on his bicycle. Dense with images, intimate and honest, the book urges in brilliant whispers for readers to embrace life, to ‘Inhale deeply. / Breathe.’”
—Kathryn Kysar, author of Dark Lake and Pretend the World
- “Roy Beckemeyer’s new book of poems, Stage Whispers, speaks from on, off, below, and above the stage of life . . . showing us how to hear what we have to say to the world, and what the world is saying to us. From the first poem, beginning with the lines, ‘When the wind sends your words back/ into your throat as you speak them,’ Beckemeyer once again shows us the essential nature of listening closely to the music and quiet of everyday rhythms, yearnings, connections, losses, and motions. He writes with originality and precision about the natural world, growing up in the Midwest, old friends and old places that shaped lives, and even the workings of our minds, telling us in ‘Electrifying Thoughts’ that if we could see our own neurons in action, ‘We’d be meteor showers. We’d/ be each other’s very own auroras.’ But the most powerful cord that threads through this book is love: love for being alive to witness the tilting of seasons and weather, both external and internal, as well as love for the moments and humans that illuminate our days. As he writes in ‘Above the Rocky Run,’ ‘The whole world could rush by in flood stage / and whirlpools and every bit of it / would be immaterial with you in sight, / this close to hand.’ Speaking of which, keep this book close at hand to better see what and who is coming onto the stage of your life.”
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, and author of Everyday Magic: Fieldnotes on the Mundane and Miraculous
- “In this new volume of work by a treasured Kansas poet, Roy Beckemeyer takes the reader to historic rural settings, the nature of farm and prairie. These poems are lean yet muscled with the intense track of a quail hunt, the rise and rustle of prey, the sudden fall to ground . . . I applaud Stage Whispers as an artistic voice that calls us all to savour this collection from a skilled craftsman of modern verse.”
—Gary Lechliter, author of Off the Beaten Path
- “Roy Beckemeyer’s Stage Whispers invites us to see the lively currents that underpin our world. His wide-ranging eye examines everything from the microscopic to the cosmic and reports back to us a universe filled with brightness and worthy of our close attention”
—Skyler Lovelace, poet and artist, Professor of Digital Media and owner of Pixel Time
- “Like his 2015 Kansas Notable Book Music I Once Could Dance To, Roy Beckemeyer’s third book of poetry, Stage Whispers, sings. . . . Stage Whispers’ melody follows nature’s beauty, from forests to insects, weather to birds— ‘You know you have perfect pitch / when you can transcribe / the brown thrasher’s morning song.’ It contains the murmur of bees who turn the golden light of summer into honey and trees that ‘toss leaves into the sky.’ ‘When Is It Summer in Kansas?’ Beckemeyer asks, ‘. . . when storm clouds say with lightning what they refuse to speak with rain’ These are poems that offer a new pitch on viewpoints that limit, ‘the storm fronts that we invent and then must learn to weather’ . . . To hear how a poet like Roy Beckemeyer heals unexpected wounds with unexpected beauty, listen to Stage Whispers.”
—Laura Madeline Wiseman, author of Through a Certain Forest
Praise for Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018):
In his latest, ekphrastic, collection Roy Beckemeyer pushes boundaries and imagination forward. His interpretations of angels—personal, metaphoric—resound and sometimes subvert expectations: “We should help them, you know, / the wounded angels of the world.” Amanuensis Angel is a crucible for Beckemeyer’s mysticism: “Gravity bows in defeat / at the seventh level of / heaven.” Gravity and other forces alter within these pages—well worth the read.
~ Tyler Robert Sheldon, author of Traumas
His rich poetic craft is apparent at a glance, and delving further reveals the poet’s depth of knowledge and vast experience, a sensibility wedding the past to the moment, all applied with an amazing, you might say, arthroscopic precision, exploring his theme with keen reach and kaleidoscopic variation, and not a weak link in the making, as if the words were honed to fly pure and true as an angel. Yet I find him at his masterful best when engaging an earthy irony, as when Adam casts a knowing eye on a lustful angel, or when the selfsame angel guarding Eden’s gate wryly observes the exiles stumbling forth in naked pride and folly, ever hungering, failing — foreseeing them damned, the man and his rib-wife, to the end of their days. Whereas any day spent reading these poems provides a glint of grace.
~ Melvin Litton, author of From the Bone
This is a pleasure to read. Surround yourself with every imaginable angel you can think of. Experience the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of inspirational art that goes with and beyond each poem. Roy Beckemeyer has blended the higher powers with visual content that can only be described as awesome.
~Dan Pohl, author of Anarchy and Pancakes (Illustrated by Jessie Pohl)
Roy Beckemeyer’s new poetry collection, Amanuensis Angel, is an original and stunning blend of ekphrastic poems inspired by angels interpreted by eclectic artists. Riffing off abstract expressionist, symbolist, and surrealist art, Beckemeyer writes a universe of poetry here, showing us the embodied, soulful, and mechanistic angels across space and time, including how “An angel is a complex system” (responding to a Salvador Dali painting), and the meaning of “Angels arranged as a storm front” (in response to a Henry Ossawa Tanner painting). There is an expansive wit and magic in this book, and reading it is like looking through a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday. In speaking to a Hugo Simberg painting, Beckemeyer asks us to “Think how many angels/ you might rescue if you start now.” He has already started, and this brilliant poetry spins together grace, humor, depth, and imagination to rescue more of our whole selves.
~ Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate and author of Miriam’s Well
- Read River City Poetry Editor April Pameticky‘s review of Amanuensis Angel.
- Dan Pohl‘s annotations on two pages of Amanuensis Angel in my blog post, “Making the Poems You Read Your Own.”
Thanks to Ried Warma, Amy Sage Webb, Kevin Rabas, and the rest of the Editorial Staff of Flint Hills Review for including Ried’s review of Amanuensis Angel in Issue 23. So happy to have this positive review appear in this outstanding literary journal.
Praise for Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014):
“Why can’t we remember that first burst of air?” asks poet Roy Beckemeyer in his debut collection Music I Once Could Dance To. Poems and prose poems answer this question, as this wise poet recreates memories of farmlands, music lessons, owls, people, and domestic still-life. Join this travel guide as he time travels through magical realities and makes each breath a new revelation.
~ Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, author of Mélange Block (Red Mountain)
Roy Beckemeyer’s poetry moves with the surety of the practiced dancer who not only knows the steps but truly feels the music. His poems can catch the painful longings of youth and for youth, dancing right up to the edge of sentiment but always knowing where that line is and never crossing over. They move in ballrooms both local—meadowlarks launching from fence posts, a girl in a white sundress on a porch swing, an owl in a sycamore—and more worldly—the bluesman and his harp, Canada geese becoming “kanji characters stroked boldly / across rice paper sky,” the Viet Nam war. Regardless of place, each movement of the music is beautiful, full of surprising variations on its theme. Music I Once Could Dance To is a masterful first book.
~ Bill Sheldon, author of Rain Comes Riding
Beckemeyer’s first book sings the full-bodied rough, but tender, song of his small town Kansas youth. An amateur entomological paleontologist, his is a poetry of minute detail, nuance, and image, of poetic/scientific observation, of the insect kept centuries in rock.
~ Kevin Rabas – author of Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar
With a keen ear for sound and a sharp eye for detail, Roy Beckemeyer’s inaugural book of poetry traverses the country from the White Sands of New Mexico to the Mississippi basin, lingering significantly in the great Midwestern states of Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas. Whether exploring the nuances of Geomorphology among friends or the awkwardness of adolescent relationships, Beckemeyer courageously explores a variety of poetic forms. He is just as comfortable writing a colorful prose poem about a man who fears hospitals as composing rhymed quatrains for “If She Came with Flowers.” Clearly influenced by his background in the sciences, Beckemeyer’s poems acknowledge his familiarity with Jazz, the Blues, and the poetic tradition of William Stafford and Kansas’ own Caryn-Mirriam Goldberg, of which this collection is now part. It is quite gratifying to see this collection of poems find its way out into the world. Readers will find here, as I have, many distinct landscapes and larger-than-life characters.
~ Lisa M. Hase-Jackson – Editor 200 New Mexico Poems and ZingaraPoet.net
In Music I Once Could Dance To, Roy Beckemeyer has written poems that are generous in spirit, wise in their experience, and reflect what is gathered from the living of a passionate and compassionate life. In the directness, clarity, and elegance of a poem such as “Currents,” “River cutting away what/faith we and sycamores relied upon,” and in the poem “White,” “I realize that white is enough/that white is everything,” I hear a voice as uplifting and insightful as Mary Oliver’s. And in the poems “Love Song from Your Garden” and “Jim,” I hear a voice as unique and powerful as that of Hayden Carruth. It is fortunate for us, that Roy Beckenmeyer has invited us to dance with his highly accomplished poems.
~ Walter Bargen, First Poet Laureate of Missouri and author of Trouble Behind Glass Doors
Memory constantly partners with the moment in Roy Beckemeyer’s poetry. Together, they glide a slow waltz across the dance floor of a Midwest at once familiar and mysterious. Scenes distant in time – a classroom of anxious catechumens, a frozen pond of eager skaters, pals guzzling pails of beer – acquire startling immediacy by means of a single detail: a hand reeking of cigar smoke, the rifle crack of ice, the laconic cadence of unexpressed regret. Other poems lull us with their “green song of grace notes,” linking the surface of the instant to its deeper layers. Led by images as luminous as a white cotton dress or a “perfect circle of milk” left on the counter, we delight to recognize our world, and ourselves, in Roy’s poems.
~ Victoria Sherry, editor of Timely…Timeless: 25 Years at Eighth Day Books
In Roy Beckemeyer’s beautiful poetry collection Music I Once Could Dance To, a whole life’s worth of stories are presented as parts of a dance. After the invocation, which glimpses inside “This Poet’s Notebook,” the exposition offers stories of childhood and coming of age. “Lessons,” one of my favorites, recalls Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz.” In the wonderful “A Year in Small Town Illinois: 1953 in Tanka,” each month shows rather than tells a full story in 31 syllables. (In June, “our mulberry hands / bloody from murdered berries… [confess] our transgression”; July, “a coffee can / blows its top into the air/ our homemade Fourth of July.”) I suspected that “The Calculus of Coming of Age” perfectly captures the yearning schoolboys feel for their female classmates (“the lanky languor of girls / raising their knowing arms / their eyes filled with answers”), but I read it to my husband just to be sure. (He assured me it does.) “1965” is a marriage of the political and personal, and a sure sign that this section is drawing to a close—the time of innocence has passed. And, yes, the next sections (theme, variations, recapitulation) contain songs of experience, but that childlike sense of wonder remains, whether Beckemeyer is marveling at the beauty and force of nature (“At Night in the Southern Rockies,” “Tornado Warnings”), giving insight into 50 years of married life (“At Watermark Books before the Reading,” “Remnants in the Kitchen after You Leave for Work”), or pondering our existence (“First Breath,” “We Discuss the Geomorphology of Life”). This is a carefully crafted book—the poems themselves and the way they’re ordered. This collection is deep and thought-provoking but offers moments of real humor. These poems were somehow able to make me nostalgic for experiences and times that aren’t my own. I loved this book, very much.”
~ Melissa Fite Johnson, Author of While the Kettle’s On
Woke up at ten this Saturday morning, mailed a care package to Sarah in California, ate
California pizza from Dillon’s and then lost myself in Roy Beckemeyer’s poetry book
Music I Once Could Dance To. For two hours, hours that evaporated to two o’clock, I danced, pivoted, tapped, and “dervished” my way to page 30. I will continue through the day, munching on a sweet read and cool, green Saturday. The poems are written in a manner that shows a high regard for the subjects, whether animate or not. As I continue
I deeply interact with each poem, pulling out the vivid images, alliterations, and talk with them, remembering stories from my past and jotting future poetic ideas for later writing. This is a collection that keeps giving the second and third time the selections are read If you do not know Roy, I will tell you that to read the book, will give you a friend as if you are speaking with him across a campfire on a cool summer evening. Please pass this on to other gentle hearts who want a better world, the one we know we could have today.
~ Dan Pohl, Author of Anarchy and Pancakes
Even if Roy J. Beckemeyer spent most of his life as an aeronautical engineer, he has maintained a poet’s soul and uses poet’s tools—a descriptive, honest voice, vivid imagery, and rhythmic sounds—to generate a sense of characters and of place, some of which no longer exist. Nevertheless, his lyrical poems transport the reader not only to areas in the Midwestern landscape but to a less harried time.
For example, in the poem “Owl,” the reader can sense the elegiac longing for an earlier era in the Midwest landscape (and perhaps in our society nationwide). The bird becomes an emblem of a dying way of life:
. . . the universal truth of a broken owl
suddenly shattered by a strand of barbed wire,
gone from magnificent pursuer to wheeling
wreck of hollow bones, his wing flailing, cloud
of down and feathers floating like incense . . . (l. 1-5 ).
Beckemeyer presents the poem containing the book’s title first, in the section he named “invocation,” a request to God (and/or the muses) to lure the reader into a dance of words to ensure that it be guided by the Divine—or at least, supernatural forces beyond our material world. And his poetry creates music with its alliteration and rhythms Although he continues the music metaphor in the titles of the book’s five sections (invocation, exposition, theme, variations, recapitulation), his engineering background appears when he weaves in scientific terms without destroying the poem’s rhythm. For instance, in the final poem, “We Discuss the Geomorphology of Life,” he notes “It’s called saltation, I said,/when grains of sand are picked up by the wind/and blown along, dislodging other grains. . . .” (l. 1-3).
Beckemeyer has lived in Kansas most of his life but isn’t a native. He spent his early years in Illinois. Those years etched intriguing imagery into his memories, which unfold often in his poetry. In “A Year in Small-Town Illinois: 1953 in Tanka,” his imagery leads the reader through the calendar via tankas (five-line poems in syllabic counts of 5/7/5/7/7 with the last two lines showing a “turn” from the beginning three). He wrote a tanka for each month. Some of them illustrate life in Illinois, such as the February tanka:
skating on Shoal Creek
ice cracks like a rifle shot
and transforms us both
from skaters into swimmers
huddled steaming by the fire (l. 1-5).
Others, such as the March tanka about the 1950s television show, “Sky King,” could occur anywhere in the nation during that era:
Sky King’s niece Penny
in that twin-engine Cessna
twelve year old boys dream about
pony-tailed girls and flying (l. 1-5)
Beckemeyer brings small surprises with the imagery, too. He illustrates the dance theme in unexpected ways, such as when he describes his wife, Pat, in “At Watermark Books Before the Reading.” He studies her as if she were dancing, “. . .your hands held out before you/as if they are dowsing sticks” (l. 4-5). And he notes “You always do that,/your hands dipping and bobbing/to the hidden rush of words” (l. 6-9).
In a similar vein, “Picking-at-Scabs Blues” in the same section not only picks up on bluesy rhythms, it, too, contains a dance description of the blues performer:
his hands would flutter,
open and closed,
open and closed,
catching at air coming
through the hard
and thrumming it there, (l. 26-31).
Indeed, this collection of poems not only shares the landscape with other descriptions in “Tornado Warnings” and “Nebraska Morning,” its dance-themed poems, such as “Initiation Song from the Prairie,” “Centering” and “Falling,” along with those previously mentioned, lead the reader through dancing lessons and create a music that many of us can still dance to today.
~ Lindsey Martin-Bowen, Author of Inside Virgil’s Garage [goodreads review, 07-23-15]
Beckemeyer is a retired aeronautical engineer. You might wonder how someone accustomed to the steel facts of math and physics could be comfortable in the nebulous world of poetry. Gone are all correct answers, left are billions of choices. Yet we know that music, a frequent subject and metaphor in his work, is based on math. The poet, like the engineer, also spends a lot of time observing, trying to understand how things work, and Beckemeyer’s poems work. Perhaps he explains his growth as a poet himself in “Initiation Song from the Prairie,” his poem about adapting to life in Kansas:
“Watch for birds that sing while
hovering in air; they have learned
to make do in the absence of trees.
You will learn to make do.”
He also shares his poetry life with his wife. In “At Watermark Books Before the Reading,” he observes how she browses the sale tables: “your hands held out before you/as if they are dowsing sticks,” then motions for him to come “share a cold sip/from this well of words/that you have found.”
Beckemeyer’s poems welcome you in. Say you’re like me and have never been to Catechism classes, didn’t go to war in Viet Nam, and have never known a coal miner. He’ll introduce you. In the broad scope of this collection, you’re sure to find some of your favorite topics, too. For me, the most moving poem is a tribute to Bertha Ross Provost, 1890-1983, the last of the Wichita tribe to speak her native tongue as her first language:
“So many no longer understand.
Her children could hear,
but could not speak their language.
The people were becoming silent.”
~ Alerie Tennille, Author of Walking on the Moon [goodreads review, 03-20-16]
- Read Wichita Eagle’s Book Page Editor Arlice Davenport’s review of Music I Once Could Dance To.
- Read Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s goodreads Review of Music I Once Could Dance To.
- Read Alarie Tenille’s goodreads Review of Music I Once Could Dance To.
- Read Emporia Public Library’s Wendy Devilbiss’s Review of Music I Once Could Dance To.
- Read Al Ortolani’s Review of Music I Once Could Dance To, that originally appeared in WORD RIOT, June 16, 2015.