By Greg Bem
Where to locate on that over-fingers lacquer speech?
Over boundaries of corruption, the physics of corpse or ash?
(from “Ouija Blink” on page 9)
Sprawling across 36 poems divided between three distinct sections, Amy Beeder’s latest published poetic voice has concocted and presented a vast array of personas and lingual variations that feel, in a short span, like living history. And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey is a book that brings forward the medieval, the gothic, the pioneer, the ancient, the contemporary, and more into an alchemical, prismatic collection that collects with each page flipped.
Beeder’s poetry shifts and morphs in front of the reader, states of the perceived reality as ephemeral as time itself. Never feeling without, never feeling of lack, this is a book of captivation, rallying, and an undeniable memento. It features explorers, witches, linguists, novelists, philosophers, and gravediggers, to name a slice of the cast. And it is global, covering grounds from many places and many cultures.
When quarantines are lifted we’ll play Marco Polo
in the empty wards & by lamplight study ancient methods
of beekeeping: mud hive & yeast cake, the tendering
of tiny crowns & tiny homes of sedge.
(from “And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey Out of the Tears of Re” on page 8)
The poems are senselessly arousing, moving between tangible and tangential from breath to breath. It is a book that is mischievous and keen, gripping and confounding, and ultimately visceral in its aural estimations and proximities. And So Was Wax contains some description, some explanation, and yet never enough. There are allusions and wayfinding, some intentionally exposed and some buried within subtext, yet there is mystery, and it is strong and strange and lingering.
One of the endnotes calls forth a reference to Ezra Pound, and I could not help being reminded of the complexities, challenges, and illuminations of the Modernists at large in texts nearly 100 years old. Still, I was also reminded of Black Mountain, Naropa, and also, I was reminded of the epic poems and parables of ages and eras many, many years’ past.
your tongue thicken to an ox’s, pronouncing words
that only through your industry still merit this translation:
I sometimes feel I am liquifying like an Old Camembert.
(from “Flaubert & the Chancre” on page 33)
Such is Beeder’s work. It never relents and it always offers more, the further one dips their head (and their mind) inward. Ultimately, the book sits on the precipice of greatness with a feeling of necessitated muddiness: to leave out direction leads to inherent incoherence, but never without confidence, without the sense that the poet is in full control, and knowingly looking upward, into the sky, the stars, and all directions of time at once.
A book of questions and yet a book of documentation and storytelling, it is a collection that may, at length, feel connected to something larger, above and beyond its own covers. I am reminded of the longer works of Caroline Bergvall, Anne Carson, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, whose books are woven together like intense strands.
Drought our summer corn was overrun again
with weed & cheat; the bitter zinnias fell to bits.
Dear yearlings our harvest is lattice & husk.
(from “Dear Drought” on page 30)
Reminisces and ruminations on form aside, Beeder’s third book is distinctly her own. She brings forward wisdom derivative of many ages, and yet the comments feel current to the urgencies of today. From climate change to spirituality to a belief of women, Beeder captures the moment by deferring to the relevance of the past. All told, the timelessness is timeliness, and the poet serves as a firm but quizzical reminder that we have much to learn by adjusting our gaze.
I am waiting at the crossroads, here at your broken gate
where barbed acacias stoop to shade my trespass.
(from “For Fresno’s Best Process Service Call Hermes” on page 56)
You can find the book here: https://www.tupelopress.org/product/and-so-wax-was-made-also-honey/
Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com