Walter Beck’s poetry is not for the weak spined, new age generation who look for light at the end of every dark tunnel and believes that fairness can be doled out through the power of positive thinking. But they should read it, even if it’s force fed down their throats between their helpings of Wiccan poetry and spiritual healing books, like broccoli.
Spitting articulate nails with precision at the public he serves, Beck’s Menthol Slim One-Twenty Blues is a twenty poem peak into the soulless world of American clerkdom, which for Beck is standing at a gas station cash register for long stretches of time. While the gripes of the over-educated (OR talented) and shittily employed don’t normally catch my attention, I found myself wickedly pleased by this poetic version of American life after grad school. Just because I said grad school don’t dare envision some sort of fresh faced, change the world young poet out of Indiana, because you would be wrong. Beck is smartly jaded, with a full grasp of how life and politics work. I suggest conjuring up an image of a coherent Hunter S. Thompson instead.
Gentle lines are threaded with stark imagery and cutting self realization. There are three “Customer Portraits” in the book, which seem slightly out of place. While I get the point of them (they are startlingly astute) and they probably work well on stage I would have preferred Beck translate them into poetic form – which he does so well. Though I would have no problem bumping into Walter Beck in a dark alley, I would be terrified (and thrilled) to see him on stage. People send me poetry all the time and I rarely comment on it- but I am definitely keeping an eye on Beck, as he is quickly threading himself into the fabric of modern American writing.
How the Story Ends,
By: Walter Beck
We were gonna burn it down and rebuild it in our image. We laughed at “bad press”, soaking up the gritty glory of being seen as freaks and outlaws. Doc was right, five or six years ago seems like a lifetime. Now we sit around and share stories of scars and victories that nobody really remembers or cares about anymore. No longer dunking our heads into the fiery punch bowl, smiling smugly as others are shocked by how much we consume. Our throats have atrophied, just one shot is enough anymore to get our heads spinning. We smile and joke about the dead-end paychecks we ended up signing for, speaking endlessly of finding something better; when we know nothing better will come for us. We are forgetting how to live and slouching towards existence.
“How the Story Ends” was originally published as a weekly featured piece in Emerge Literary Journal.