Writer Joshua Beckman (Photo courtesy of Wave Books)

Writer Joshua Beckman (Photo courtesy of Wave Books)

 

The poems in Joshua Beckman’s new book, The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books, 2013), have all the immediacy of a “V” of geese passing overhead: for a brief moment, everything else falls away. While not technically haiku, Beckman’s latest work shares many characteristics with the form—the spareness, the juxtaposition of images, a focus on the natural world, and a sensory urgency.

Inside of an Apple-Beckman-Click to PurchaseIt makes sense that Beckman was the co-translator of Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms, which was featured on Gwarlingo in July of 2012. The Ecuadorian writer’s micrograms—poems between three to six lines long about little natural creatures (both flora and fauna)—share affinities with Beckman’s own work: both writers wring a lot of meaning out of very few words.

But Beckman isn’t constricted by any sense of tradition. Haiku and micrograms are only a springboard for poems that are highly original and very 21st century:

“Stars / that form from bells / planes that act / like stars / drunk blue / palette of early / night / in which / an electric / light swings / over the yard / it is a branch”.

With plainspokenness and the juxtaposition of modern and traditional imagery, Beckman creates a sense of both timelessness and timeliness—no easy task. It’s Beckman’s sincerity, combined with his ability to not take things too seriously, that gives his poems a subtle power. It’s rare to read work that feels simultaneously contemporary and ancient.

Some years ago, Beckman (along with poet and editor Matthew Zapruder) appeared on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm program, where he explained his approach to writing in more detail:

“People want to ask you when they see a poem like this, ‘how long did you work on this?’…and the real honest answer is, ‘all day and all night, and your whole life.’ You work on it all the time because you’re reading, you’re paying attention….What’s not important is impressing someone, what’s important is being meaningful to someone….I’ve been impressed by poems, but I don’t remember them; I remember the ones that were meaningful to me.”

It’s this focus on meaning over flashiness that allows The Inside of an Apple to stand apart from so many other collections that lack soul (for lack of a better word).

I have six poems from Beckman’s latest book to share with you today. Enjoy your Sunday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

                   the inside
       of an apple

                               burning fall
and wood making heat
also there are no stars
in the dark sky

                             grey
clouds bunch together
with closed down houses
       and dog bark wind

I saw a picture being still
and I was still too
having seen something.

I sit most days on the porch
and sometimes one might hear
the clock clock of my heels
getting lost and sometimes

everyone in town is gone to sleep
and I step out into the street
so I might see a thing
and see a thing I do.

Big grey street
and silver snow
and silver sky

These bars on tracks
as trains do ride

                     empty field
covering the ground
with little bits of its stone
dipping down and
                  sloping upward

so always where the earth is
   no one’s really there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On 13th street
where there are cherry trees
and children brought
by their parents to live
in calm patterned seclusions kept
the day flowers and in a bowl
I poured the water.

If one feels nothing
and still sees, sees with his eyes
if one sees with his eyes sees with his eyes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Plant

Rubber around my foot
around my foot a