The world. I don't know. We sink. We
are awkward. We lean. We fall into doors
and we sink into those doors. The world.
The poems in Shake come to us directly and intimately. Generous, fervent, full of fear and persistence, they resonate with the wildness and generosity of Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan and Whitman, turning the everyday into an encompassing, harrowing, humorous, and necessary vision.
Shake resonates, not with sentimentality, but with honesty. This work is as much an exploration of being knocked down as it is of getting up. And the success of Shake lies in that juxtaposition of the meanness of the world with flashes of power, kindness, and insight.
Erica Wright, ForeWord Magazine
Beckman’s instinctive taste for formalism’s perks just peeps out of these odd little constructs (pantoum-like, at times). And the form helps, somehow, to build a rise in bitterness, a humor that is cutting and cynical and comprehensible.
Olivia Cronk, Bookslut
The three long poems of Beckman’s fifth collection mourn the depravity of American urban life while celebrating (sometimes with a bit of irony) the fleeting transcendence of love, sex, and fun. Eschewing narrative in favor of episodic variations on the above, Beckman punctuates these extended meditations, comprising related poems grouped in series, with crystal-clear images rife with sad humor: “In heaven there’ll be umbrellas for children (their size).” The results are subversively disorienting and emotionally precise.
The world as Beckman sees it is as good as we make it—the tending is the point—and we are lucky to have him in our garden.
Kerri Webster, Boston Review
Joshua Beckman, perhaps more so than any other poet of his generation, has absorbed the lessons of the part fifty years of poetry and uses them to his advantage. In his fifth book, Shake, Beckman’s untitled poems radiate with the sincerity and tragedy of Confessionalism, the romanticism and rowdiness of the Beats, the candor of the New York School, an invocation and simultaneous aversion of form worthy of both the neo-formalists and the ellipticals, and the attention to sound and politics of Language poetry. His poems, however, are more than their influences. Beckman brings an intelligence, humor, and voice that are his own. Beckman’s diction and syntax across lines forces the reader to slow down and take a harder look and a harder listen at life. These poems obsess and repeat, creating a feeling of tightness, but remain loose in tone; minimalism with maximal sensuality.
Shake marks the moment of Beckman’s arrival into his own. It marks the moment when a substitute grace dissolves before real grace. If Ezra Pound is right that literature is “news that stays news,” then Joshua Beckman brings the news; we should listen to him.
Carl Kelleher, Jacket Magazine
Beckman’s traditionally a master at converting the personal to the existential in a deceptively plain-spoken way, and at encoding just what needs to be encoded to avoid self-satisfying autobiography. But from the opening section, “Shake”—the first of the book’s three sections, each a series of untitled poems--there’s a shift in tone from the first three books. ... A lot of the book’s frustration is controlled--and ultimately, purged--in the final and best section of the book, “New Haven.” I doubt if anyone's written so well with the southern Connecticut city in mind since Wallace Stevens and his ordinary evening.
John Deming, Coldfront Magazine
Every time I see Shake, by Joshua Beckman, I can't help picking it up. And moreover, once I begin to read, it's difficult to put it down... All I, as a reader want to do is stand and stare at the foam and roar, its repetitions meditative, disturbing, slightly dangerous, but ultimately in check.
Sina Queyras, Lemon Hound
Joshua Beckman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of many books, including Animal Days (Wave, 2021), The Lives of the Poems and Three Talks (Wave Books, 2018), The Inside of an Apple, Take It, Your Time Has Come, and two collaborations with Matthew Rohrer: Nice Hat. Thanks. and Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty. He is editor-in-chief at Wave Books and has translated numerous works of poetry and prose, including Micrograms, by Jorge Carrera Andrade, 5 Meters of Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) by Carlos Oquendo de Amat, and Poker (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2004) by Tomaž Šalamun, which was a finalist for the PEN America Poetry in Translation Award. He also co-edited Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners (Wave Books, 2015).
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
ISBN# 9781933517001 (6.5x8.5 88pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781933517049 (6.5x8.5 88pp, limited edition hardcover)