Monday, June 5, 2023

Bruce Beasley

Bruce Beasley is the author of ten poetry collections, and has won several awards, including from University of Georgia Press, and Ohio State University Press. His books include The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems (2007, University of Washington Press), and his new collection Prayershreds (2023, Orison Books). In 1996 Charles Wright selected his book Summer Mystagogia to receive the Colorado Prize for Poetry.

Prayersheds is a fascinating collection, woven both from Beasley’s obsession with words, and our attempts at communication through words that we call prayer. His brain seems to continually be in a musical whirl of homonyms, homophones, etymologies, and nonce words combining familiar syllables for greater precision of meaning. Kathleen Norris insightfully compares his playfulness to that of E.E. Cummings. His word-wrestling doesn’t seem to be intended to distance himself from the reader, since many of the poems are quite accessible, however the poems sometimes take a path that require us to make our paradigm of what a poem should be more flexible. Rather than a book of prayer poems, this is more a book of poems about prayer.

The following poem first appeared as “The Responsive Amens” in the journal Subtropics, and it is from Prayershreds.



Shut your eyes―we were taught
in the Children’s Sermon
on how to pray―
shut your eyes tight until
you hear the pastor say Amen

but sometimes when I forgot to listen

for that end-signal word, sleep and prayer
would indistinguish themselves


Mandatory postrequisite
of creed
prerequisite for exit Amen

Vocally italicized Yes

that compelled and terminal

It means Verily, so be it, decidedly it’s true,
means Here is where we go
back to normal-talk

We make it

Please Lord let it end make it
mean Oh God
would would would
that it were so


To my body I will be as the
is to the flesh’s
Let us pray Let us pray Let us pray


Every amen
scissors the traced
outline of the prayer, ripping
the cut-out space of what we say to God

from the scrapped
silver silk of all we’d never say

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.