The Muse

(An International Journal of Poetry)

Volume-1                                          June-2011                                                        Number-1


Book review of Al Beck’s Curiosity’s Cushion

                                                                                 By Pradeep chaswal


Curiosity’s Cushion

Al Beck

Bookdogger Press 2010

ISBN 978-0-934852-85-2

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

“What’s Chemistry’s

 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:


Gifted intellects

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.