The Muse

(An International Journal of Poetry)

Volume-1                                              december-2011                                                    Number-2





Book review of Al Beck’s Selecting Prepared Signs of Pith and Vinegar

                                                                                                                            By Pradeep Chaswal


Selecting Prepared Signs of Pith and Vinegar

Al Beck

Willowbrook Illinois Press 2011

ISBN: 978-0-578-08863-1

223 pages, price- $ 21.00


Selecting Prepared Signs of Pith and Vinegar is book no. 18 by popular poet, academician, curriculum developer, professional American Folksinger and Korean War veteran Al Beck, who resides in Monroe City, MO. This book is a fine and excellent “blended collection of poetry, drawings, hyper-photographs and edu-editorials comments”. This poetic work has been divided into ten sections. In Section one: Seasons’s Reasons, Al Beck’s heart is overflowing with a passion to “Welcome sweet spring”(p20) as “Fresh Spring Wind sends dry/October leaves flying from/ what past conceives/ A seed germinates/as it will need to capture/all Nature’s rapture”(p23).  The poet stands for rejuvenation, hope and faith in life. In Section two: Endow Us With Creative Prowess, the poet tells us that creative thinking resides in the realm of “the careful interaction of Passion with Reasoning.”  He defines “Creative Thinking” as “a gentle blend of curiosity with intellect”(p33). He reassures us of “humanity’s successful growth” when he tells us that “The careful interaction of Passion with Reasoning/is a tool for humanity’s successful growth” (p33).  He also warns us of “overload of passion” or “overemphasis of intellect” during the decision making process(p33). He celebrates unfettered growth of human imagination . simply memorizing facts and information does not augur well for the creative development of human mind. According to him, and rightly so, “It makes no sense...when a person’s only excellence/Is a measure by a memorised mind.”(p47) About spontaneous and effortless emergence of ideas he says, “When an idea/ emerges playfully from/ wisdom’s deep wellspring, make this your habit:/take time to celebrate and then quickly grab it”(p49). For Al “Wisdom’s more than/a fact-crammed cloak” (p47). He highly admires vibrant and soaring thinking when he says, “Thinking’s/flight-smile/emerges while/a shrinking/ attitude/ purges”(p76)

            In Section three: Cultivating Compassion, Al observes that: “Empathy reaches/ far beyond mere sympathy/ into compassion.” And he also combines compassion with reality when he says: “Love does not include/blind compassion which removes/reality’s heart.”(p65) in Section four: Places and Spaces Among Philosophy and Phil-awfully Al throws ample light on hostility and humility in three lines: “Hostility and/ Humility: forever/are disconnected” (p94). In Section five: Innovative Intellect’s Introspect, he tells of inspiration for innovation in a very convincing manner: “Inspiration for/innovative conception/ sky-high reception//With the right tools and/ efficient innovation/ new words can emerge// inspiration builds/ unexpected ideas./ they’re like mental snacks.” Al coins a new word EDUTRAINMENT for the development of formal learning practices. In his words: “Edutrainment is the viable collaboration of Education, Entertainment and Training” and “Let’s work hard to install Edutrainment in class.”(p101)

            In Section six: Personal Rostrum’s Costume he argues for change in the prevailing education system:

                        I continue to assert that Emotion, Curiosity and

                        Creative Thinking are Intellect’s essential partners.

                        The human challenge for developing inventive

                        wisdom becomes almost a cakewalk with these

                        four life lifters working well together. Our

prevailing edu-deficite groans speak for change. (p.125)

            In Section seven: Straining Brain Training, he advises the teacher, “Preparing yourself by becoming/ mentally and emotionally flexible.”(p149) He is critical of “edu-autocracy” which does not allow the creative and innovative and inventive faculties of mind to grow and develop in a free, frank and unfettered manner. Al does not like the attitude of “edu-autocracy” which compels the learners to “memorise info/and be scholarly tested/with pundit-sized puke”(p150) In Duo-Haiku,  Al rightly observes:

Future growth will grind

when traditional values

are locked in the mind. (p153)

            In Section eight: Olio’s Folio, in a philosophic vein he throws ample light on urge of human survival:

                        Evolving from aggressive

                        Nature’s precocious attitude,

                        human’s attempt to balance survival

                        with spiritual golden gratitude.(p172)

            This noble poetic work ends on a highly philosophic note of curiosity and questioning:

                        It’s good to constantly remember

                        Nirvana wears a weightless wrinkle.


                        The issue’s whether

                        a roar of infinity

                        stores divinity. (p. 219)

Melody and music inherent in the poems of this book will continue to echo forever in the depths of the hearts of the readers. I also do hope and believe that the message and advice contained in these poems will continue to guide the readers in their pursuit of free frank and unfettered growth and development of their imagination. I also hope and believe that this beautiful poetic work will certainly be admired and welcomed with a warm heart by the poets, poetry lovers, academicians, educationists, thinkers and philosophers.

            Photo-technographics in this are created by Carmen Federowich, “loving, talented wife” of Al Beck. These works of art add to the aesthetic charm and beauty of this poetic work. There can be no better conclusion of this review than the following words which I borrow from Al Beck:

                        Poetry and art

in pages of my book,

made and collaborate. (cover page)