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Coal City

Music I Once Could Dance To: poems

Roy J. Beckemeyer. 2014.

A Kansas Notable Book for 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9795844-8-0. 6 x 9. 10.

“Why can’t we remember that first burst of air?” asks poet Roy Beckemeyer in his debut collection Music I Once Could Dance To. Poems and prose poems answer this question, as this wise poet recreates memories of farmlands, music lessons, owls, people, and domestic still-life. Join this travel guide as he time travels through magical realities and makes each breath a new revelation.   ~ Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, Author of Mélange Block.

Roy Beckemeyer’s poetry moves with the surety of the practiced dancer who not only knows the steps but truly feels the music. His poems can catch the painful longings of youth, and for youth, dancing right up to the edge of sentiment but always knowing where that line is and never crossing over. They move in ballrooms both local—meadowlarks launching from fence posts, a girl in a white sun dress on a porch swing, an owl in a sycamore—and more worldly—the bluesman and his harp, Canada geese becoming “kanji characters stroked boldly / across a  rice paper sky,” the Viet Nam war. Regardless of place, each movement of the music is beautiful, full of surprising variations on its theme. Music I Once Could Dance To is a masterful first book.  ~ William Sheldon, Author of River Comes Riding.

Beckemeyer’s first book sings the full-bodied rough, but tender, song of his small town youth. An amateur entomological paleontologist, his is a poetry of minute detail, nuance, and image, of poetic/scientific observation, of the insect kept centuries in rock.  ~ Kevin Rabas, Author of Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar .

With a keen ear for sound and a sharp eye for detail, Roy Beckemeyer’s inaugural book of poetry traverses the country from the White Sands of New Mexico to the Mississippi basin, lingering significantly in the great Midwestern states of Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas. Whether exploring the nuances of Geomorphology among friends or the awkwardness of adolescent relationships, Beckemeyer courageously explores a variety of poetic forms. He is just as comfortable writing a colorful prose poem about a man who fears hospitals as composing rhymed quatrains for “If She Came with Flowers.” Clearly influenced by his background in the sciences, Beckemeyer’s poems acknowledge his familiarity with Jazz, the Blues, and the poetic tradition of William Stafford and Kansas’ own Caryn-Mirriam Goldberg, of which this collection is now part. It is quite gratifying to see this collection of poems find its way out into the world. Readers will find here, as I have, many distinct landscapes and larger-than-life characters.  ~ Lisa M. Hase-Jackson, Editor 200 New Mexico Poems and ZingaraPoet.net.

Memory constantly partners with the moment in Roy Beckemeyer’s poetry. Together, they glide a slow waltz across the dance floor of a Midwest at once familiar and mysterious. Scenes distant in time – a classroom of anxious catechumens, a frozen pond of eager skaters, pals guzzling pails of beer – acquire startling immediacy by means of a single detail: a hand reeking of cigar smoke, the rifle crack of ice, the laconic cadence of unexpressed regret. Other poems lull us with their “green song of grace notes,” linking the surface of the instant to its deeper layers. Led by images as luminous as a white cotton dress or a “perfect circle of milk” left on the counter, we delight to recognize our world, and ourselves, in Roy’s poems.  ~ Victoria Sherry, Editor of Timely…Timeless: 25 Years at Eighth Day Books.

In Music I Once Could Dance To, Roy Beckemeyer has written poems that are generous in spirit, wise in their experience, and reflect what is gathered from the living of a passionate and compassionate life. In the directness, clarity, and elegance of a poem such as “Currents,” ”River cutting away what / faith we and sycamores relied upon,” and in the poem “White,” “I realize that white is enough / that white is everything,” I hear a voice as uplifting and insightful as Mary Oliver’s. And in the poems “Love Song from Your Garden” and “Jim,” I hear a voice as unique and powerful as that of Hayden Carruth. It is fortunate for us, that Beckemeyer has invited us to dance with his highly accomplished poems.  ~ Walter Bargen, First Poet Laureate of Missouri and Author of Trouble Behind Glass Doors.

Read Excerpts from “Music I Once Could Dance To” at We Wanted to Be Writers.