Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Not so much

At the moment

(drunk & disordered

or otherwise unsorted).

You never know.

Phrases return unbidden.


Nouns are things.

Things are whatever

One cannot know.

One is alone.

One is surrounded.

Isn’t one’s sexuality

Tortured by definition?

You’re translating me.

I’m interpreting you.

Nothing is inevitable.

Little is effective.

An electrical storm.

More pressed flowers.

A Divine Comedy.

Our enforced comity.

Some phantom situation.

Our phantom enterprises.

Let’s start over.

A little more

Than one thought.

(This blank enclosure.)

Closed window into

Whatever is yet

To be opened.

Submission is remembering

Something otherwise problematized?

Questions are thresholds,

Marks of betweenness,

Unshaped boundaries of

_____, ______, _____

(forms of noise).

You want me?

Here I am

(total access for

a limited time)

Some kind of

A bad object.

Pronouns are bad

Actors (very bad).

I love parentheses.

I love to

Fill in blanks.

I love to

Leave things blank.

You love what?

Emphasis is whack!

One wants anything.

Perhaps nature poems?

I don’t know.

Pronouns aren’t natural.

Neither is nature

(that’s nothing new).

Nothing’s like anything.

Please repeat that:

Nothing’s like anything.

That feels profound.

That feels OK.

That feels degraded.

This feels edgy.

What’s one thing?

What’s an object

In your scheme?

Why do words

Look so strange?

Especially ones I

Think I know?

A new constraint

Is an orgasm

Cheated or prolonged.

Desire is everywhere.

Desire is everything.

Who are you?

Want to sing?

I’m not unique

In being afraid.

One could take

A clinical approach.

Still, I want

To say: Help!

Life is virtual.

You all know

This: yes, no?

Poetry begins with

And ends with

Whatever can be

Thought and said.

Or just posted?

Writing is fucked.

To think is

To talk within

A collapsing structure.

The House of

Being’s on fire!

Whose, ants in

Britches, crotches itch?

Raise your hands.

Come and testify.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Out!

Now out from Otoliths

Tom Beckett
80 pages
Front cover image by Rosaire Appel
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-6-1
$13.45 + p&h

The difficulties that language presents have their analogues in life. Whether posed, or proposed, or just tenuously poised on the thin line that divides articulation from understanding, the phrases and phrasings of Tom Beckett's elegant and nervous Parts and Other Pieces challenge the givens of experience. The excitement and beauty of this four-part book are the product of a mismatch between words and worlds. And it is, indeed, a beautiful and exciting book. Variously witty, angst-ridden, melancholy, sweet, Beckett's parts provoke a powerful whole. —Lyn Hejinian

If Tom Beckett cares about anything, it’s everything. “Are you with me, Columbus?” Why yes, you are, we naturally reply, since Beckett has asked us a question he already knows the answer to, since he loves and respects the durability of our imaginations, desires, impulses and anxieties. Our answers, in substance and scope, are the very near silent dialogues that Beckett hears in the thought acts generated by poetry: openness taken from the shadows of openness alone. Beckett’s poetry has always reminded me that we are all in the process of our obsessions, where “What I might be able to do for you and not myself is to/mirror you,/establish your presence.” Tom Beckett is the poet in all our poems, goofing off when we harden in our terrible seriousness, and in the next moment, attentively concerned with how loud we just laughed. —Jordan Stempleman

Tom Beckett writes from the lab. His work, in its observational acuity, gives back to us all the stuff we see floating in the peripheries – of language, of social order, of identity – and places it smack dab under the lens. Where it pulls us in, performs for us, makes us marvel at its range, occasionally repels us, often makes us chortle. Parts and Other Pieces is alive, emotionally raw, self-effacingly hilarious, and ultimately quite beautiful. Beckett is the master; we’re damned lucky he’s got the white coat. —Jessica Grim

Tom Beckett's Parts and Other Pieces bristles with a fierce, rhythmic relentlessness. These are poems of urgent self-reflection, caught between the demands of everyday life and a consciousness haunted by spikes of piercing perception. —Charles Bernstein

“As a writer,” we read in an interview with Tom Beckett, “it can be more important to pay a lot of attention to a few things rather than a little attention to a lot of things.” Touché! Beckett’s new collection begins with a sequence of questions posed on the Ohio State campus (Goodbye Columbus!) and responds with a series of answers—not quite to the original questions and hence all the more pertinent and mysterious. The connection between A and B is provided by the middle section, “Between Asymmetries,” whose maxims, written under the sign of Emerson, enact the truth that “Language grids support the inexplicable.” The final poem, the minimalist “Parts” provides the “break (brake)” that makes everything that precedes it come together in one radiant whole. —Marjorie Perloff

Also by Tom Beckett & available from The Otoliths Storefront:

This Poem / What Speaks? / A Day

& the three volumes of the classic interview series:

E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The First XI interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Second XV interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Final XIV interviews + One

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don't stop

and think.

Think and

don't stop.
Going through a period of mental and physical exhaustion. Work is insane now. I come home tired, go to bed early and wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things I have no control over. Chronic insomnia for the last year or so.


Homemade lentil soup simmering. Jeff Beck on the box.


My new book should be out in a few weeks. If nothing else it may be my most beautifully blurbed volume. The back cover will be graced with kind and eloquent words from Jordan Stempleman, Jessica Grim, Lyn Hejinian and Marjorie Perloff.

And the front cover will have wonderful images by the incomparable Rosaire Appel.


Have written the first sections of the novel and am mulling the next turn.


Internet connection fading out with some frequency. Sigh.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Am living in the midst of an enormous amount of work related stress. Trying to think and feel past that to the real work I want to do when I retire at the end of the year.


I've been trying to write seriously (often failing, sometimes seeing a glimmer of hope) since the 1970s. Barb and I got married in 1976. I've been working at the Health Dept. since the spring of 1977. Our first child was born in 1978. Our second in 1984. We have two grandchildren now. All of this is to say that what writing, editing, publishing, etc, I've done so far has been done in the context of a very busy life. I put out The Difficulties when the kids were little and we had no money to speak of. I begged and borrowed and scrimped to do The Diff's. I even sold a life insurance policy. I could go on... The point, I guess, is that the pursuit of poetry hasn't made my life easier. It has, though, made it better.


I'm hoping, when I retire, to write daily. That would be such a sweet luxury. I have an idea for a novel called "Appearances" which I think I can write (if granted an open expanse of time).


Earlier today, after doing dishes, vacuuming floors, and eating lunch (fried clams), I read the manuscript of my friend Jessica Grim's latest book of poems. I've known Jessica for around 20 years. She's an engaging person and an incredible poet. Jessica's poetry is not flashy. It's thoughtful , quirky and kind of dense. It's a poetry of epistemological and phenomenological turns. It's a poetry of encounters, a poetry of interfaces, a poetry about the word inside of the world, where nature and thought are equally palpable and similarly fragmented. It was a privilege to read this work. Seek out her writing. Read it slowly and savor it. I'm telling you it's special.