cover image (gentlessness)


Dan Beachy-Quick. Tupelo (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-936797-57-8

Beachy-Quick (Circle%E2%80%99s Apprentice) guides the reader on a startlingly engaged and astute trip through the history of Western poetic form and voice, from the pre-classical age through modernism. Defining "gentlessness" as "a word/ to describe that/ which must deny itself/ to exist./ ...a word I made up/ to describe/ to myself/ myself and other fields," Beachy-Quick moves through the "literary epochs" that have preceded our own, beginning with the primitive, stripped-down "monadism: a proem" before running through elements of the Homeric epics and Platonic dualisms in "heroisms." The "puritanisms" section features instructions and aphorisms for living in beauty, while in "overtakeslessness" he considers work, fear, and W.C. Williams%E2%80%99s "The Red Wheelbarrow." He switches gears in "romanticisms," elevating his language in a set of sonnets that somehow manages to reference Duchamp ("I saw the nude bride lean back in the grass,/ Legs askance, one hand holding above her head/ A lantern"), and he echoes Pound and Eliot in the final section, "modernisms." Even the sonnets show a serious, scholarly, yet playful resolve to be faithful to their own history. Beachy-Quick%E2%80%99s understated humor, intelligence, and regard for big ideas shine through the whole of Western poetic history, shaped by his postmodern (and occasionally ironic and self-deprecating) voice. Such an accomplishment is rarely achieved with this much grace. (Apr.)