Liz’s Weekend Poetry Series: Dan Beachy-Quick

by lizard

Saying Dan Beachy-Quick is the contemporary poet to watch is like predicting the Super Bowl Champ in September, but after picking up his latest collection, Circle’s Apprentice, I’m convinced Dan has the potential to create a lasting impact in the small world of American poetry.

The world I speak of is the academic world of MFA/adjunct/professorial reign/and mighty tenure, where the game of poetry carries the weight of big words and grand theories behind it. For example, I found this article by B.K. Fischer in the Boston Review that had things like this to say about Beachy-Quick:

Beachy-Quick is adept at the classic Derridean move: identifying the simultaneity of irreconcilable contraries that, upon analysis, depend upon and collapse into one another. His book, a collection of lyrical prose meditations on Melville’s Moby-Dick, resounds with collapsed binaries and aporetic splits, contradictions that reciprocally create themselves, terms that imply and give rise to their opposites: interior/exterior, circumference/center, poison/antidote.

What? You might be saying. I know. Let me try and put it this way:

Dan’s work is sound and wordplay circling above then spiraling in like twin hawks taking a double helix nose dive toward some center they will never quite reach; some elusive prey their talons will just barely miss before…


Let me give Fischer another chance to put this poet in context:

Like so many of his peers, Dan Beachy-Quick came of age in the heyday of post- structuralism in American universities. The lessons of Derrida infuse his work with a persistent awareness of language’s intrinsic contradictions. Drawing on the basic tenets of French theory, Beachy-Quick has cultivated a poetics of intertwined reference and palimpsestic harmonies, and his two most recent books attest to the promise and pitfalls of this post-structuralist legacy.

What this description hints at is the post-everything fragmented now us poets are currently sifting through, precisely because there are no dominant schools or modes of thought that hold sway in the word-play of language and poetry in the 21st century. Terms like free verse don’t have much relevance in today’s poetry. Of course free verse shook the cage and made everything seem possible, but the seduction of form and rhythm ensures language returns to its pleasurable constraints, waiting for the next outburst of exploration.

I won’t accuse Dan Beachy-Quick of being a New Formalist, like Dana Gioia (a corporate man turned poet and funding player) but I will pin him with the urge to measure his song in very carefully constructed poetic packages.

Before we get to this weekend’s selection, I should mention I first ran across Dan’s poetry excerpted in UM’s literary magazine, Cutbank. Muchas Gracias.

Now, here is a brilliant goddamn poem by Dan Fucking Beachy-Quick:



Hurt-sick, say it, heart-sick, you say it
Sea-swell, sea-pulse, sea-push-sway,
Blood-clash, this tired wish, you say
There’s a stone, a heart-stone, a question
Tormenting itself with itself, looks in
Blood or under blood for an answer that binds,
Rebinds, re-echoes memory in mind,
Anemone in tide-pool, hand in her hair,
Follow the dove as it flies between the rocks,
Crashing rocks, wandering rocks, deadly
Rocks that clip her tail when she flies through
These hands, these doves, flight inside them,
Fear follows fury, what follows fear?—
Blood-lines, shipping-lanes, duty, transport,
Customs, freight. The invoice’s chant:
Hurt-sick, heart-sick, ventricle, bay…
Do you answer it? Does it demand answer?
Heart that thinks, mind that rhymes
Clarity with charity, care with spare,
Heart-shard, heat-shield, a cargo only of
The old armor, worn inside the skin, where
Mind girds memory, and the heart prepares
Ocean-side, night-long, dove-song, for the prick.

—Dan Beachy-Quick

  1. Ingemar Johansson



  2. marcogibbo

    sweet song. let the lit-lawyer-linguists strap it on, extrapolate, mum-jumbocate, and find the roots of it in whitman’s short hairs. a heart-song that ebbs and flows inside, tides rise in my pores and eyes, and i can float for awhile, be a sensory animal who wonders why and knows nobody really knows . . . so i return to my senses and what makes me smile. this old song makes me smile, reptile, one of the post i look forward to in a world built on slavery and spun with lies. peace.

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