I've just purchased the latest book from Skysill Press, this time "Gospel Earth" by North Carolina poet Jeffery Beam. I bought the hardback edition, beautifully put together and with nice cover artwork (by Laura Frankstone). Like the previous Skysill book from Jess Mynes, this one is also driven by "the urge to produce the irreducible poem". Many of the poems are one-liners - a form Beam has made a study of:
ENTERING NO EXIT
Another field cloudless sky becomes a revolution.
Many of the others are short haiku-like poems. but these are no mere syllable-counting metaphors, but poems of depth and a certain mystery:
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
Bees sense crowshadow across dry pavement
I am pilgrim on this vegetable earth
I like that. I don't really know why; I just like it. A lot of the poems strike me in that way - "irreducible", I suppose; concentrated, and often needing to be re-read and slowly absorbed by the reader, like a mini-meditation, a Zen Koan:
A LITTLE BOOK OF ST. FRANCIS
What whispered place from visions spring always springness
Some of this poetry, especially a sequence called "The Green Man", reminds me of Ronald Johnston. But in fact, the influences are wide and fully acknowledged; Beam cites
"the spiritual literature and folk traditions of the East & West - Japan, India, China, Korea & Malaysia - the Dao, the I Ching, canny Biblical fragments, the Desert Hermits, Gnosticism, Sufism, Ancient Greek poets & philosophers, the French and Spanish Surrealists, the Symbolists & Decadents, Shape Note Songs,bluegrass & African-American gospel music, women's poetry throughout time, Native American poetry, & the poets of the contemporary small poem movement in America & Britain - particularly..."
Beam then goes on to name ninety-five poets across cultures and centuries. The first section of the book, "A Gathering of Voices" is a sequence of short quotes from some of those poets. I like this inclusiveness and sense that the poetry is part of a continuum spanning various human civilizations.
I can't do this book justice in a brief blog post, and I hope to review it properly at some point (promises, promises) but for now I'd just say it's recommended.