(An International Journal of Poetry)
Volume-1 June-2011 Number-1
Book review of Al Beck’s Curiosity’s Cushion
By Pradeep chaswal
Bookdogger Press 2010
192 pages, Price- $ 17.00
Curiosity’s Cushion is book no. 16 by popular poet, academician, curriculum developer, professional American Folksinger and Korean War veteran Al Beck, who resides in Monroe City, MO. A serious glance at the book makes the reader realize aesthetic power of the book. The title Curiosity’s Cushion is suggestive and symbolic. It is an established fact that one learns new things by curiosity and Al Beck is no exception. He declares “My interest in life evolved from a particular aspect of character. And that happens to be CURIOSITY” (“A Final Autobiographitti” 189). Curiosity’s Cushion is an extended intellectual debate about learning and sharing the experiences of learning.
Structurally the book may be divided into four parts: (i) Poetry (free verse, tanka, haiku, sonnets, experimental poetry and so on), (ii) Drawings, (iii) Essays, and (iv) ‘Phhototechnographics’ by Carmen Federowich. The book has epical undertones. Following the epical style the poet starts the book with a prologue. Al’s love for nature is explicit and philosophic:
We are Nature’s physical song.
May we share it with new, bountiful
fresh fruit and harmonious style. (“In Retrospect” 8)
Al has used humor, irony, satire, sarcasm, personification, and even elements of surprise to mesmerize the reader. His portrayal of nature, external as well as internal, is noteworthy. He is a philosopher poet. In “Philoso-Fun”, he says:
Pull it out of life’s
sprying-pan and swing into
the fire of desire. (11)
Al has captivating lyrical powers at his command. He makes use of Greek method of Chorus in “That’s That – song lyrics”, “The Empty Life – song lyrics” and “Chew, Chew, Chew – song lyrics”. In “That’s That – song lyrics”, he sings in a reflective tone:
No, I’ve never worn a silly mask
I’m quite glad you happened to ask
But I have to preen to become so mean
Life’s been such a godless task
And that’s that; yep, that’s that (14)
Wit comes naturally to Al as leaves come to trees. He speaks wittily:
A long time ago
Someone once asked me
connection to Humanity?”
I responded with
an inquiry of my own:
“Are you searching for a key
to unlock creativity or insanity?” (“That’s That – song lyrics” 16)
Experience of life, literature and teaching has given Al an intellectual depth and capacity to look deeper into the happenings in and around. In the present day world where life is full of cut throat competition and self evaluation is mandatory, Al speaks in an inspirational tone:
Let’s not worry if our ideas aren’t working
. . . figure out what we’ve been shirking (“The Empty Life – song lyrics” 23)
Modern life is full of hustle and bustle. Al provides the key how to remain stress free. It is humour which is the key to remain stress free. He opines:
Those who carry a
mental overload marry
Mrs. Discommode (“The Empty Life – song lyrics” 25)
Al emphasizes that the right method of learning is the need of hour. He observes:
Learning is a home
where new ideas expose
through many windows (“New Learning & Old Burning” 34)
The poet is not satisfied with the present system of education and suggests constructive and innovative changes:
In Education rigid stuff happens
if we don’t deal with it.
New Weltanschauung dies awkwardly
in society ‘s mental closet system.
Like any kind of muscle
inventive thinking needs exercise
or sure-fire it will atrophy.
Dissing dynamic ideas,
certain academic leaders
preserve a parochial pace.
Such a staid strategic attitude
ignores human creative power.
This is a fatal flaw
In civilization’s future. (“Wearing Heartache’s Helmet” 42)
The poet portrays the present so-called intelligentsia in an ironic tone:
grow badly in shallow pots;
roots are tied in knots. (“Wearing Heartache’s Helmet” 48)
As a mature educator he declares:
An ideal educator is
an inspirational catalyst
for future‘s flow development. (“Wearing Heartache’s Helmet” 51)
In my opinion Al is a ‘magician poet’ who leaves his reader spellbound. His sonnets have the lyrical power of Wyatt. His poems are fresh and soothing. Portrayal of ‘poli-goon’ testifies to Al’s merit as a satirist of contemporary scene:
A gross poli-goon
always delights in howling
nonsense at the moon. (“Reasonable Advice” 126)
Al presents beautiful and unique comparisons. In “Understanding Emerges” he observes:
A gentle critic,
like my loyal elderly cat,
will keep me awake at night (83)
Curiosity’s Cushion is a fine presentation of experiments carried out by Al. Poems entitled “Poem’s Design Sonnet-like” and “Al’s Sconnet” are experimental in content and style.
Poems like “World’s Game Is Wounded”, “Difficult Early Childhood”, “Hospital Patient’s Distress”, “Disconnection”, “Time to Lose”, and “Heartless Haiku” are written in negative mood but are not depressing, rather they reflect poet’s reflection and observations based on his experience about the dark side of Life. I feel that the poems contained in Curiosity’s Cushion will inspire the readers to move in the direction of truth and light. Loving, entertaining and instructive touch of his poetry is like a whiff of fresh air. Curiosity’s Cushion will prove useful and of great interest for teachers, educators, planners of syllabi, students, and lovers of poetry.