Dan Beachy-Quick confirms the promise of his first book and greatly extends the range and scope of his writing with this brilliant fantasia on a theme by Herman Melville. This multi-layered poetic work engages with Melville’s text as well as with myth and with the ideas of spiritual quest, the role of the writer, and the nature of language. Rewarding multiple readings and affording continual discoveries, Spell is a major work for the new century by an assured and gifted poet.
“Taking a powerful, lyrical sweep through one of the country’s most charged and versatile symbols, Dan Beachy-Quick opens Moby-Dick into yet more meanings and directions in this book-length reverie, perfectly sustained by his intricate sound play and impeccable phrasing. Intelligent, compassionate, exquisite, Beachy-Quick’s is a unique voice in contemporary poetry.” —Cole Swensen
A prophet is a man with a river-bed
For a face and no water.
Reeds bend in wind to speak, and he tells them:
No. Breathe dust. He is dust speaking
To dust. A prophet does not speak
for himself. Then Whom? A river
Empty bleeds into an ocean full. Go to ocean.
Put my hand beneath water, and my hand
Is held by what it cannot hold, belongs
To the wave's cresting arm, to the wrist
Whose pulse ripples back from shore:
I learn so to make myself not my own.
The White Whale below water holds his breath—
He is breath by water held. As I am dust
Stitched into skin, a whale is water thickened
Into skin, a depth unknown. A god
Erases himself to make himself known. At fathoms
Whale, at fathoms, I'm the bent reed beside you
Asking you . . . as men on ocean do . . . asking you
Why fill your lungs at latitudes no man knows?
Why must I next to you be but a speaking mote?
Not true. I'm a river-bed. I've tried
To imagine in you a silt-layer of words you
Will not speak. Will you, Dumb God?
No river flows to you to answer for you
Copyright © 2004 by Dan Beachy-Quick
“I’m of the opinion that poetry about poetry can be some of the best, and the most ambitious. Dan Beachy-Quick’s Spell is ambitious indeed—a veritable carnivale of narrative experimentation and meditations on the nature of the written word, strung through by intertwining images and ideas, all bound together by a poetic rendering of the classic Moby-Dick . . . .
“The narrator—proclaimed analagous to the author in the chapter’s subtitle—addressing each poem to the “Editor,” venting his obsession the whale, hang-ups on writing and the growing, icy divide between him and his wife. These poems to the editor are where Beachy-Quick is at his best; consolidating form and emotional content, moving from abstraction to individual.
“Lyrical, filled with images of contrast (black ink on a white page, white whale in an inky sea, etc.) and the negotiation of self, Spell is beautiful if sometimes too obsessive. I have to admit, though, my skepticism when I began that came out pleasantly surprised.” —from the review by Meredith Blankinship on Pestopasta!
Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Circle's Apprentice, as well as a number of chapbooks, including Apology for the Book of Creatures. He has also collaborated with the poet Srikanth Reddy on Conversities. Works of prose—essays, meditations, and tales—include A Whaler's Dictionary and Wonderful Investigations. His work has been supported by the Lannan Foundation. He teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Colorado State University.