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Gerald Stem selected this first volume of six long poems for the first Honickman Award, sponsored by The American Poetry Review, and also provides a hastily written introduction that reveals more about Stem's pseudo-populist aesthetic than it does about Beckman's complex verse. The title well captures the vagueness of Beckman's style: something takes place, though we're not always sure what that is. He shifts diction and syntax mid-poem, from simple, declarative sentences to lyric fragments, creating at times a synchronicity of experience. ""Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter"" repeats the phrase ""at the news of your death"" and elegizes its subject with all the odd things that have happened, as well as the moments of indifference. Though he worries aloud at one point (""this seems a bit too confessional""), Beckman is never direct enough to lay his soul bare. From poems such as ""My Story,"" ""Ode to Old Watermelon Hands,"" and ""Winter's Horizon,"" we indirectly discern both his family romance--a troubled mother, a twin brother, a father leaving a blaming house--and his more immediate failures as a husband and father himself. On the road in ""Purple Heart Highway,"" or communing with nature in ""The Redwoods: A Tragedy,"" Beckman can't escape his troubles. Aphoristic and stream-of-conscious, Beckman disappoints with his trite phrases (""The train tracks of our lives,"" his ""life flashing before"" his eyes, etc.), but his swaying lines sometimes surprise.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0966339517
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: American Poetry Review