Writer Joshua Beckman (Photo courtesy of Wave Books)

Writer Joshua Beckman (Photo courtesy of Wave Books)

 

The poems in Joshua Beckman’s new book, The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books, 2013), have all the immediacy of a “V” of geese passing overhead: for a brief moment, everything else falls away. While not technically haiku, Beckman’s latest work shares many characteristics with the form—the spareness, the juxtaposition of images, a focus on the natural world, and a sensory urgency.

Inside of an Apple-Beckman-Click to PurchaseIt makes sense that Beckman was the co-translator of Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms, which was featured on Gwarlingo in July of 2012. The Ecuadorian writer’s micrograms—poems between three to six lines long about little natural creatures (both flora and fauna)—share affinities with Beckman’s own work: both writers wring a lot of meaning out of very few words.

But Beckman isn’t constricted by any sense of tradition. Haiku and micrograms are only a springboard for poems that are highly original and very 21st century:

“Stars / that form from bells / planes that act / like stars / drunk blue / palette of early / night / in which / an electric / light swings / over the yard / it is a branch”.

With plainspokenness and the juxtaposition of modern and traditional imagery, Beckman creates a sense of both timelessness and timeliness—no easy task. It’s Beckman’s sincerity, combined with his ability to not take things too seriously, that gives his poems a subtle power. It’s rare to read work that feels simultaneously contemporary and ancient.

Some years ago, Beckman (along with poet and editor Matthew Zapruder) appeared on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm program, where he explained his approach to writing in more detail:

“People want to ask you when they see a poem like this, ‘how long did you work on this?’…and the real honest answer is, ‘all day and all night, and your whole life.’ You work on it all the time because you’re reading, you’re paying attention….What’s not important is impressing someone, what’s important is being meaningful to someone….I’ve been impressed by poems, but I don’t remember them; I remember the ones that were meaningful to me.”

It’s this focus on meaning over flashiness that allows The Inside of an Apple to stand apart from so many other collections that lack soul (for lack of a better word).

I have six poems from Beckman’s latest book to share with you today. Enjoy your Sunday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

                   the inside
       of an apple

                               burning fall
and wood making heat
also there are no stars
in the dark sky

                             grey
clouds bunch together
with closed down houses
       and dog bark wind

I saw a picture being still
and I was still too
having seen something.

I sit most days on the porch
and sometimes one might hear
the clock clock of my heels
getting lost and sometimes

everyone in town is gone to sleep
and I step out into the street
so I might see a thing
and see a thing I do.

Big grey street
and silver snow
and silver sky

These bars on tracks
as trains do ride

                     empty field
covering the ground
with little bits of its stone
dipping down and
                  sloping upward

so always where the earth is
   no one’s really there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On 13th street
where there are cherry trees
and children brought
by their parents to live
in calm patterned seclusions kept
the day flowers and in a bowl
I poured the water.

If one feels nothing
and still sees, sees with his eyes
if one sees with his eyes sees with his eyes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Plant

Rubber around my foot
around my foot a sock
around my sock a pile of dirt
is getting wet a pile of mud
around my mind a thought
the foot means I am like a person to a thought
and the thought means I am like a plant to the sun

The earth feels made to the sky, no?

Fall asleep and dream you are a droplet
of pretty natural sugars condensed and spherical
then go get hid in someone’s mouth like a candy
(maybe the groove in a tongue would be a nice place to stay)
and when they open their mouth for a raindrop
  you’ll get a raindrop too
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The burdened cry
or madrigal of
trashbird as beak is
when jabbed into
grapefruit, seeds
knocking around
        the dusty sidewalk
   a strand
of human hair
        wrapped inexplicably
     around its beak
and as it hopped about
a little skill
did fill it
that it could lift things
that it could search still,
but feed and fix
it could not do
     so while its time
as might be clear
ran short too soon
      it cast briefly
        a rough and bold figure
lifting itself from the weeds

          one sun up
            one sun down

the darkness there
in watered mist

alive
a little pointed hand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Crackle crackle
 little hails on my hat
clicking their notes atone
  hear this: an awning to
   bounce off of, and the things
you saved up
  for dreams came down speaking.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

  On tracks I bake
in fields I lie down
bombs make holes
in buildings
and I go through
those holes like light
   I saw
       an old man living
in a quarry, and I saw
an old man living in a tank
I read about caves
and I read about
the first pretty flowers
in a glass dish growing
like a droplet or a pollywog
I split like an amoeba
into shy and passive tribes
which would I thought
fight and be done
   I saw a beaver from the window
awkward on land and thought
of that place covered in water
   now because of rain
this poem which was to be called
                       Waste & Use
       will be called Image of Solace
Attempted in Your Name
                          My little Ruby
         swims around
       in the mucky puddle
that was a yard
    and baby dogs
       have soft soft paws
 
 
 
 
 
 

About Joshua Beckman

Joshua Beckman on deck #1Joshua Beckman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of six books, including The Inside of an Apple, Take It, Shake and two collaborations with Matthew Rohrer: Nice Hat. Thanks. and Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty.

He is an editor at Wave Books and has translated numerous works of poetry and prose, including Poker by Tomaz Salamun, which was a finalist for the PEN America Poetry in Translation Award, and Five Meters of Poems by Carlos Oquendo de Amat. His co-translation of  Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms was featured on Gwarlingo in July of 2012.

Beckman is also the recipient of numerous other awards, including a NYFA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Seattle and New York.

Beckman will be teaching a poetry workshop at Literary Arts in Portland on November 10, 2013. He will also be appearing at the Lillian Vernon Writers House in New York City on December 5, 2013. Visit the Wave Books website for more information.

 

 

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Further Reading

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All poems © Joshua Beckman. All Rights Reserved. These poems appear in The Inside of an Apple  (Wave Books, 2013) and were reprinted with permission from the author and Wave Books.
 
 

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