On Oct. 23, Ink introduced “rock star” poet and editor Joshua Beckman to the College.
Beckman, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College studying poetry and the art of the book, gave a reading and answered questions at Ink’s Visiting Writer Series. He is an editor at Wave Books and the author of five inventive books of poetry, including “Things Are Happening,” “Something I Expected to Be Different,” “Nice Hat. Thanks.,” “Your Time Has Come” and “Shake.”
Latecomers had difficulty finding seats in the crowded New Library Auditorium. The anticipation of the audience, indicated by its impressive size, was met with the poet’s raw delivery of poems from two of his books, “Your Time Has Come” and “Shake.”
Beckman began with three poems from “Your Time Has Come.” The selected poems, brief in number and content, were indicative of the writer’s distinct style. Beckman is known for his short poems, often consisting of three to five lines, which, while light in physicality, were infinite in profundity. The writer’s often puzzling works require the reader to revisit his words to gain greater understanding.
Beckman primarily focused on 2006’s “Shake” for the rest of the evening. The writer explained the reason for his disproportionate presentation of the two works.
“When I finish a book, I end up wanting to read from it, and get involved in it,” he said.
The writer’s intense involvement in his work was evident in his performance. Pausing only to take a drink of water, Beckman emphatically delivered the beginning section of his most recent work. The poems presented a series of somber, yet humorous impressions, characterized by themes of love, sex, lust and urban life. The fragmentary lines, though seemingly incomplete and independent, were interwoven with Beckman’s use of repetition and unconventional alliteration. Beckman demonstrated his innate connection with the unidentified voices of his poems that he was immersed in his words and the emotion they carried.
The reading was followed by a Q-and-A session. When asked how he determines which poems are suitable for publication, Beckman said, “I think . to some extent it’s about how good it is or how bad it is … A majority of the poems I write are terrible . The ones that are good are the ones that stick around for a while and as time passes I see if I still care about them.”
Though fully engrossed in his work during the reading, Beckman revealed his humor beyond the page when answering questions. Regarding the influence editing has had on his poetry, Beckman said, “I have yet to figure out what effect it has on my work … It means I have health insurance.”
Luckily for readers, editing has enabled this talented poet to produce works of innovation that embody the voices of many, yet echo the condition of all.