Dan Beachy-Quick on The Social Distance Reading Series
In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
“How does mind find a way out of itself? Are words arrows? And if they are, in which direction do they fly as they Pierce the heart to make it sing. In Dan Beachy-Quick’s wonderful new poems, spirit is aimed at matter in an inexhaustible, urgent quest for meaning and the consequence of meaning. Slow down. Find a quiet place. Read this book. It will not give you hope so much as comfort for your sorrow.”
“Dan Beachy-Quick’s new book of meditative lyrics, Arrows, is a bag of gems—intricate, chiseled architectures of light—whose smallness belies their generosities of heart and mind. But just as these poems give us facets to provoke, arouse, awaken, delineate the unsaid, so too their music gives them an arrowing elusiveness, faster than prose, an eros to “bind us,” in its passing, to what we cannot know, to loosen “the little knots of nerves called thought.” Such loosening is everywhere here, as are nerves. Insight abounds, ever indebted the vitality of paradox, dialogue, transformation, to suggest a greater sense of participation and engagement, a less dogmatic ethics akin to listening. In empathic yearning, song “refuses the object’s/ indifference and makes it ask to what it belongs.” In a new ecology, each belongs to none and every. In the sparrow’s song, a call to “no one who is not alone.” A deeply wise and beautiful book.”
How do you begin a new piece of writing? What conditions help your writing process?
Mostly, all of it now begins in patience, or as patience. I read other’s poems, read philosophy, whatever is capturing my mind most. Eventually, on a run, or sitting at work, or in some unexpected and often unthinking time I’ll hear a line, have a sense of phrase or lyric fragment—and if it stays in my head a few days, I write it down, and the poem has begun.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
Strange things, some silly, others not. Playing Scrabble as a child with my cut-throat grandparents, and the absolute determination to win. My mother’s father, Pops, told me stories from my childhood to adolescence, about his history, the War. I could feel the power, the importance. And then, in high school, an extraordinary teacher taught me, taught us all, about poetry. We read John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” I was in love with a young woman in the class; I was learning what love might be from a poem, from a metaphor. I’m married to her now, 30 years later; and I’m writing poems.
What poets or writers do you continually go back to?
As with most poets, it’s a wide and wandering list: Homer, Sappho, Socrates/Plato, Heraclitus and the other Pre-Socratics, Euripides, Sophocles, Sir Thomas Browne, Shakespeare, Milton, Tolstoy, George Herbert, John Donne, William Blake, the Wordsworths (Dorothy and William), John Keats, Herman Melville, Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, H.D., George Oppen, Lyn Hejinian, Brenda Hillman, Forrest Gander, Arthur Sze, Peter Gizzi, Ann Lauterbach, Susan Howe…
What is your favorite childhood or adolescent book?
As a child I loved The Phantom Tollbooth above all else. As a teenager, I loved D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow especially. (Even drove through the night with a friend to visit his ashes outside Taos.)
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
I don’t find all that much is thinkable in this situation, mostly just a time to endure. My wife was saying the other day that we’d look back on this time with a kind of nostalgia. I was flabbergasted at first, but see what she means. The quiet open time with the kids and each other…I’m about to go plant some flowers, zinnias and morning glories, in the back garden box with my youngest…all that does feel good, the slowness, when I let it. Mostly, like most others I imagine, I miss what life had been.
Where can we find you? Link to your blog or website:
You can look me up on the CSU faculty website and get in touch by email, but other than that, I have no website, no social media, nothing of that kind.
The Social Distance Reading Series
Brought to you by The Vermont School and Green Mountains Review
We’re thrilled to host The Social Distance Reading Series, a collaboration between Green Mountains Review and The Vermont School poets. In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. At this point, we are focusing on collections by poets whose book events have been cancelled between January through May 2020.
Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
–Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden, and Elizabeth Powell, series curators.
–Kylie Gellatly, editorial assistant, interviewer.