Friday, April 09, 2010

Silent Angry Poets

I read an interesting work in an anthology of poems by ever-angry poet John Beecher:

"No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher."

Well, that's from the copyright page. I don't think Beecher wrote it. Unfortunately, that sentence is probably the only thing in the book I am allowed to quote fully.

However, according to my understanding of fair use I can noncommercially quote a small fraction of the work I really am interested in without exposing myself to prosecution for copyright infringement. Since poems are pretty short to begin with, here is a single word from Beecher's poem, "Homage to a Subversive":


It's not much, but hopefully enough to help you grasp the essence of the work. As you can maybe tell from the excerpt, Beecher has a rich and pungent descriptive language, and bundles out the word-bombs as fast as a B-52 on a mission of metaphor. But don't be fooled - this poem is the best of the best. He worked really hard on this one I think. Most everything else is overdone and trite, 2-D cliches about the suffering of the working man or the myopia of the self-righteous hypocrite. (The latter is particularly cloying and annoying, stuff along the lines of "I hit a black dude for looking me in the eye and now I'm going to church because I'm SO RIGHTEOUS!")

But good or bad, no one reads them. That's because about the only John Beecher book in the valley is the one sitting next to me right now. I got it from the library. The book is 35 years old, and does not look heavily used. And I can't quote anything from it for you because of the beautiful poem on the copyright page.

You'd think an angry idealist like John Beecher would have wanted as many people as possible to see his work - read it, memorize it, ponder it. Instead his commercial interests pretty much guarantee that as few as possible read it. Funny how that works.

Every author balances the desire of having people read what he has to say with his desire to get paid for it and not have to do a real job.

1 comment:

Jamon said...

Classic! Maybe there was another reason why he didn't want his poems copied in any way, one that didn't have to do with money. Thinking.... thinking...., nope can't think of any.