October 06, 2012
Wonderful Investigations: Essays, Meditations, Tales, Dan Beachy-Quick (Milkweed Editions, 2012)
I’ve always admired Beachy-Quick’s work; in the business of ranking contemporary poets (which I only enter into reluctantly, and usually at my friend Ilya Kaminsky’s insistence: for the Russians, ranking poets—living or dead—is an irresistible parlor game), Beachy-Quick has hovered at or near the top of the mental list I keep of my peers for many years now. I haven’t appreciated every book he’s published equally, and I do wish he and Melville could agree to something like a trial separation: unhand him, restless spirit! When Beachy-Quick is at top form, however, there is no one else writing even remotely like him in English today.
Wonderful Investigations is Beachy-Quick at top form, under cover of prose. The essays—which are about what anyone familiar with Beachy-Quick’s oeuvre might expect them to be about (the nightingale trope; Thoreau; Greek myth; the nature and necessity of poetic endeavor)—scintillate. The real wonders here, though, are the four “tales”—fictions—which are perhaps his most accomplished and heartbreaking works yet. In them, Beachy-Quick reveals himself to be the true heir not of Blake or Shelley, nor even of his beloved Keats, but rather of Borges (“A Point That Flows”) and George MacDonald (“The Children, the Woods”). Taken together with Circle’s Apprentice, his recent collection of verse, Beachy-Quick makes a stride forward as one of the preeminent American visionaries of our moment.
G.C. Waldrep is the author of four full-length collections of poems: Goldbeater’s Skin (2003); Disclamor (2007); Archicembalo (2009), winner of the Dorset Prize; and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, with John Gallaher (2011). He currently teaches at Bucknell University and serves as Editor-at-Large for the Kenyon Review and is the Editor of West Branch.