New book: The Waste Land and Other Poems, by John Beer ’91 (Canarium Books)

The author: Beer’s poetry has been called associative and imaginative and his work has been compared to that of John Ashbery. Called a “promising young talent” by a Boston Globe critic, Beer’s poems have appeared in Verse, The Brooklyn Rail, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, and other journals. His criticism has appeared in the Village Voice and Poetry Project Newsletter. He is a theater columnist for Time Out Chicago.
The collection: The title poem in this collection refers to the T.S. Eliot masterpiece. And in Ashbery’s blurb for the collection, he states, “Only a genius could write a book called The Waste Land and Other Poems.” The Boston Globe critic Michael Brodeur seems to agree: “Beer, with his perilously sharp wit and chronic honesty, had little other recourse than to recycle/reuse when naming his sprawling survey of our contemporary cultural ‘muck’ (a recurring word through the collection). In his poems, Beer offers a past that continues to accumulate even as we strive to forget it; a culture flummoxed by a present we can’t properly employ and beholden to a future we haven’t the bearings to imagine.”
Opening lines:
“Once more in the city I cannot name,
the boat city, the city of light,
the city that endures its fall,
the city of pleasures and vicissitudes,
the skier’s city, Fun City, the city under the sky,
city of crime and vegetables, Pornograph City,
the city governed by the Lost and Found Department, …”
Review: Beer “achieves some of the sense of naturally confident gravity that, all these decades later, makes Eliot’s poetry so bracing,” wrote a critic for Quarterly Conversation.