EILEEN TABIOS Engages
SHIELDS & SHARDS & STITCHES & SONGS by Dan Beachy-Quick
(Omnidawn, Richmond, CA 2015)
‘Twas some lovely imagining that beget the alchemy that created Dan Beachy-Quick’s SHIELDS & SHARDS & STITCHES & SONGS. Here’s the infrastructure from the author himself (I assume it’s the author, or approved by the author anyway, since it’s on the back cover unattributed)—and its availability means one can judge the project’s effectiveness based on the standards by which it sets:
Shields call out to the violence from which they also protect us, a paradox that belongs as well to the images etched upon them. The damage inflicted alters them, and the beaten, damaged, dented shards sing out differently. In these poems seven shields each suffer a process, one of wounding, and of healing the wound back to song. Shards are what remain of shields, fragment words relict from the first poem. Shards become stitches, barest suture of meaning made only from what language in the shard remains, smallest chant of healing the wound must utter itself. Last, built upon the stitches, keeping intact what letters and words there remain, seven songs to replace seven shields, born out of a violence they seek only to sing themselves past.
Thus, we have four sections of seven poems each. The first section, as befits “shield”, are poems whose eight lines form together to visually evoke a shield and whose contents aptly relate to the condition to which they will be put to use: war. Here’s the first poem:
Be of ruin this rude maker.
Rubble be. Ruin be. Be not a stone.
Hellstone. Hailstone. Hellebore
Take root in the broken and bloom.
Bloom blood into bitter lake.
Or let dirt drink its fill. The bee moans
In its thin cup. Pollen and trouble.
Mark it in bronze, poet. Grab the tool. Beat it.
The second section, “shards,” presents erasure poems from the first section, befitting the damage the shields take as they are used in war. Here’s the first poem which, when compared with the above, will show what was erased by or during battle:
be. be. stone.
drink its moans
The third section of “stitches” presents poems more minimalistic than shards as, presumably, ongoing battle use further reduces the solidity of the shield. Here’s the first poem, and a comparison with its shard version above will reveal the relationship with the resulting letters below:
And so we come to an intriguing turn in the project—its claim that the last section of “songs” are built upon the stitches. It’s logical, since the stitches are what ultimately remains from battle and, thus, are the remaining foundations from which something can be renewed or built anew. Here, then, is where Beachy-Quick also reveals poetic mastery, revealing himself capable of both minimalism and textual density, even as the latter succeeds in singing. Compare the above “stitch” poem with its “song” version below:
Sing gold this chain’s scorched links.
Balm the scathed ear’s wounded tone by muting the dove’s
Limited cry, who or who or who or
Who into becoming so much less through the gray channel
Of her sun-lit sometimes radiant purple-flecked throat.
Beneath cloud a flake of green also moans. Makes moan.
Other heroes also pull their prisons in chains behind.
Heroes other than doves. A kind of poet. A kind of storm cloud. A wound.
Only 28 poems, and yet they evoke the fullness of an entire life, including a war from which there’s the attempt not just to survive but to transcend. The poems succeed in their war’s goal: from the last poem, “Find some song like a coin lost in grass. Give it a home.”
Finishing Beachy-Quick's book reminded me of J.R. Martinez, about which Wikipedia says:
In February 2003, he was deployed to the Middle East. Two months later, Martinez was driving a Humvee when its left front tire hit an IED; Martinez suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 34 percent of his body. He was evacuated to Ramstein AB, Germany for immediate care and transferred to the Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. He spent 34 months at BAMC and has undergone 33 cosmetic and skin graft surgeries...
Martinez is an actor but I'd never heard of him until I heard he became the champion of "Dancing With the Stars," a show that flits about the periphery of my attention. Anyway, 34 months at BAMC undergoing 33 cosmetic and skin graft surgeries and then to shine on the dance floor -- that's a wound turned into song. I welcomed the reminder. Someone should send him Dan Beachy-Quick's SHIELDS & SHARDS & STITCHES & SONGS...
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work. I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary. Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field. Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form. A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com