Speechless the Magazine

 To render. Be rendered. Awestruck. Awesome.
A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A.

 


Double Feature

New Releases from Richard Beban and Sherman Pearl

 

Speechless readers, we could have simply posted news of two new books, a couple of poems from each, bios and blubs (in a raucous phone conversation Robert Dana and I decided they should be called "blubs"), but that seemed somehow too easy. Therefore, I requested each poet accompany his bio note with a sort of secret — something he'd "never told anyone, or hardly anyone". And instead of using the published blurbs, I invited Richard Beban and Sherman Pearl to write their own — on poets living or dead. Perhaps these will throw as much light on the work and sensibilities of the featured poets as those quotes contributed by other poets. And if not, well, one can always buy the books and read the commendations on the back covers.

Suzanne Lummis

 Richard Beban

Were our country mature enough to recognize national treasures, Jack Gilbert would top the list of poets, with his schoolmate, the better-known Carolyn Kizer, who both learned craft from Theodore Roethke in a 1955 class that also included James Wright.  Gilbert, now 79, has published three books in his lifetime, in 1962 (Yale Younger Poets Prize), 1982, and 1994, eschewing the PR/publish or perish game for long periods of solitude on the Greek islands and in Japan.  Still in print, '94's The Great Fires (Knopf, paper) is a masterpiece, with the best single poem on why we write I've ever read.  I consider it his ars poetica, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart." Thank the gods & goddesses, there's a fourth Gilbert book coming this spring; intimations of its greatness have been sprinkled like breadcrumbs in the recent forest of New Yorkers that grows in our home magazine rack.  His astringent romanticism manages an alchemical feat—it tastes simultaneously like vinegar and ambrosia.  So, sometimes, can love.

from What the Heart Weighs
Red Hen Press, 2004

MY PARENTS WATCH THE JULY FOURTH PARADE

Perhaps they were both dyslexic;
never clear on the difference
between marital & martial.

Thought the wedding march was
by John Phillip Sousa or Francis
Scott Key – bombs bursting in

the living room, kitchen, beat of
muffled drums, sharp staccato
racket of sticks on rims, crack of

ribs, crack of small arms fire,
small children abandoned in the
corners like spent shell casings.

The stars & stripes forever
imprinted – stars as blows hit the
skull, stripes from the slashing leather

belt across the backs of thighs. Red
welts, white skin, blue bruises never
shown at school where you stood for the

Pledge of Allegiance & learned how fine
a country this is & why our parents fought
so hard to keep it free.  Learned the price

of war was high, but teacher said it
was worth it. Look at all we had
that children in other countries wanted.

KITE

I remember the string yanking tight
around Father’s ankle,
as Brother carefully played

it out, letting the stick turn against
his palms.  Father rose on the wind,
arms outstretched, bobbed side-to-side,

splayed fingers feeling his way up unseen
thermals.  I worried about his glasses
falling from such a height, but as he grew

smaller I saw them neatly folded
in their case at Brother’s feet.
A gust of raw April billowed his red

windbreaker, pulled Father higher, the corded
muscles of Brother’s bare arms cable-thick
as he fought the wind, the whirly stick

gouging holes in his palms, his flesh opaque,
then pink, then bursting into flame
as he let go & Father wafted east

well above the skyscrapers & the
diamond-sparkled bay, whatever he was
calling back lost in the wind.


Richard Beban earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University-Los Angeles. His first book-length collection, What the Heart Weighs, was published by Red Hen Press in 2004, and they will publish his second, Young Girl Eating a Bird, in October, 2005. His poetry has appeared in dozens of journals, national anthologies and literary Web sites; he has also been been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. With his wife, Kaaren Kitchell, Richard runs monthly poetry and fiction workshops in Playa del Rey, CA.

The first and last time I ever used the switchblade I carried as a 14-year-old punk, I vomited and threw it down a sewer grate.  The unseen millimeter that separates vital organs from the fleshy surround is the same mysterious line between the brilliant poem and the mediocre mess on the page.  But sometimes the good fortune of missing something vital is the difference between plain old juvie and real hard time.


Sherman Pearl

The Poems of Wilfred Owen

If poetry had the power to stop war, the poems of this brilliant young British officer would do it. Writing from the trenches of "The Great War", he reports on the heart and the guts of war. He lives the horror of his work, and no polemic on the politics of war can hope to match his truths. The horror is compounded by his battlefield death, at age 25, one week before the Armistice. This collection remains his gift to the peacemakers.

from The Poem in the Time of War
Conflu:X Press, 2004
P.O. Box 12445
Marina del Rey

THE IN-CROWD

When I decided to run I looked in
and was blinded by the glitter
taken by the talk
not quite deep enough in to be in
nor outside enough to be out

so I ran as an outsider
wheedling nods from the insiders
and when I got in
nobody could have been deeper
into the circles of power

but even inner was the sanctum
where the in-most group met
while I waited outside
for decisions to be slipped to me
under the door

and my invitation to enter
finally came as I waited
so I burst through the door
and stormed the inner-most core
and found myself alone.

GERONIMO

Remember that rooftop, the shuffle to the edge;
how hard the lawn below looked,
how distant. Remember
our wavering there, too sensible to jump,
too daredevil not to; then the plunge --
that eye-closing breath-holding drop off the end
of boyhood. Remember our yelling
G E R O N I M O
like war-movie paratroopers,
calling on him for courage as we fell.

Save us, GERONIMO

We limped home slightly broken, remember,
soldiers returned from war wearing
bruises like medals. Do you still
bear them old chum? Under that softly padded suit
does your body remember the ground,
the jolt of the landing? Did you ever again
leap blindly into thin air
and rise to meet the bravest part of yourself?

 


Sherman Pearl, a native of Los Angeles, is a retired journalist, publicist, and freelance writer who began writing poetry after age 50. His work has appeared in more than 35 magazines and literary journals. He's won several awards including first place in the National Writers Union 2002 Poetry Competition judged by Philip Levine, and second place in the 2001 Strokestown Poetry Prize, Ireland's largest poetry award.

At age 8, just when my poetry career was starting to show promise, I abandoned it because a girl I adored told me it was "sissy". It took me four decades to recover.


Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach