Poet Jeffery Beam
The Beautiful Tendons: Uncollected Queer Poems 1969-2007
The author regrets that The Beautiful Tendons is temporarily out of print, and
search of a new
publisher. Copies can be obtained from the author or from the
Bull's Head Bookshop, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Nominee for a Pushcart Prize, an American Library Association GLBT-RT Stonewall Award, and on the long list for the Lambda Book Award.
Lament and Song: A Cantata for Voices and
Trio" by Steven Serpa, based on three poems from The Beautiful
in Boston on December 1, 2008 for World AIDS DAY.
The Beautiful Tendons: Uncollected Queer Poems 1969-2007 brings together more than three decades of lyrical,
metaphysical Gay poetry from native North Carolinian Jeffery Beam. The vast majority of these poems are unpublished
in any of his previously published books, but were originally published in many of the most important gay magazines
& anthologies of the latter half of the 20th century. Demonstrating Beam's under-acknowledged poetic contribution
to late 20th century & early 21st century Gay literature, the collection gathers an introductory essay (The
Visionary Company of Love), 72 poems, & three longer poem sequences on Gay love, friendship & spirituality. It
includes six line drawings & two pastel portraits (1980) by North Carolina artist Sue Anderson, & nineteen
photographs by Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931). James Broughton called Beam's poetry "sensual epiphanies,
lightning flashes of the dramatic heart of event, memories from the crux of dream." The collection was the seventh volume in the White Crane
Wisdom Series from the White Crane Institute & Lethe Press.
These juicy poems, at the intersection of spirituality & sexuality, leave me breathless with their erotic
Beam's poetry, most emphatically, is not a poetry of gay culture but of the communion between the gay man and nature, both his own nature and that
more general Nature...More than that, his poetry dramatises a communion between a naturalised gay man and a spiritualised nature. Through the use
of a poetic line that echoes both Whitman and Carlos Williams via Rumi, Beam combines the physical and the contemplative: sexuality and spirituality
are fused in the perspective of the naturalist, in the observance of nature. In particular, naturalism allows Beam to achieve a use of sexual
euphemism that avoids the bathos of clinical or colloquial vocabularies (the 'brown gleam' above, for example).
The overall effect is that of an idyll. Removed from daily urban life, untarnished by contemporary culture and clothing, Beam rediscovers the
male body in the presence of itself. For this is what Beam renders brilliantly in his verse: the body at ease with itself. Magically, this ease is
arrived at by an imperfection or, rather, an incompleteness of the verse, a fragmentation that registers as a quality of openness to the reader.
Never the hard crystalline flawlessness of early imagist verse, we rather find here the leisurely listlessness of the body in repose. Appositely Beam
keeps syntax to a minimum—the sense of a poem gathering via a paratactic constellation of words rather than through grammatical formalities
(indeed, 'Blue Winter Language' was written "primarily with a magnetic poetry kit"). This technique, or seeming avoidance of technique, works to draw
the reader into the sensuality of the image which is not described so much as evoked.
—Jonathan Statham Chroma
In the world at large, it would seem that the acceptable word for homosexuality is "gay." That's what you find in the magazines and on TV. But
is, of course, largely a political term. It suggests a public image, a social concept—as in "gay marriage," "the gay lifestyle" (whatever that
be), and so forth. It has to do with clothing, performance, stance—the things that change from generation to generation. Already the term has
to feel musty, something that belongs to another century, another way of living.
Used in this manner, "gay" drains homosexuality of its deepest reality, of what it means beyond the newspapers, beyond the legal and public
spheres. After all, homosexuality involves feeling, sensibility, intensity; it has to do with profoundly subjective states of being that change
little from one year to the next and are as true when one is eighty as when one is eighteen.
Jeffrey Beam's new book, The Beautiful Tendons: Uncollected Queer Poems, 1969-2007, takes its readers into a world
where surface and fashion
do not suffice. With a clarity that few poets command, he evokes an awareness of what it is like to live within a world defined by homosexuality and
its pleasures. Beam is one of our foremost lyric poets; he speaks with delicate precision.
...Beam is a very wise and knowing poet. The Beautiful Tendons deals with matters that appear unknown to the majority
-and are, therefore,
queer. Yet they are beautiful. At the very least, Beam offers an entry into a state of being as inevitable and certain as any.
—Richard Franklin in Talisman, vol. 36/27 (Fall 2008/Winter 2009)
The Beautiful Tendons brings together over three and half decades of Jeffery Beam's queer-centered and homoerotic
verse. Not surprisingly,
it offers a view into a poetic universe that feels simultaneously intimate and far ranging. Happily, it is a universe that, in this poet's hands, is
well worth getting to know. Beam, the author of several other print collections as well as an audio / spoken word work, clearly wants to claim his
place in the lineage of Whitman with this collection. The work rings with the same vitality and enlarged vision of the possibilities of the body, of
the erotic. It is marked by the same cult of the "wild" mystic and the same generous pantheism. Many of the poems crackle with fire...In other cases,
the poems are smaller, quieter without losing power...In both the quiet and more vatic registers Beam's poems seem to work towards an openness, a
kind of ecstasy—in the original sense of that word, a transport out of the body, here to a hypothetical space beyond the confines of ordinary
language itself, since we're dealing with writing. In their best moments, these poems do somehow or other manage to press against such limits, of
sound, sense, imagination and when they do, sex and soul, landscape and language manage to come together with a kind of glittering joy. In other
cases they almost do, and just once in while they fold into a sort of soft abstractness...that faintly recall(s) the most exasperating weaknesses,
both sentimental and intellectual, of the "New Age." Of course, it may be the fate of every ecstasy to be followed by a comedown. However, great
sections of the collection soar above such problems of focus by anchoring the surging rhetoric to concrete reference points...He is particularly
as a poet of sensibility and visual response.
Work like the Von Gloedon sequence, and the more successful poems of pleasure and ecstasy are what one takes away from the pages of The Beautiful
Tendons, and one remembers them for their energy and their audacity. Beam is poet of evident large ambitions and, to a significant extent he
in achieving them.
—Peter Dubé in Ashé Journal: The Journal of Experimental
Spirituality, vol.7 no. 2 (2007).
—A very fine critical review by Michael Ferguson appears in the Journal of
Homosexuality, Vol. 56, no. 4, pp.
532-536 (May 2009).
prevents me from including it whole here. But here are just a few of his words: 'I would like to call attention to Beam's mastery of poetic
technique [&] resources of the English language … his sense of beauty and effect in rhythm and line: the way consonants shape a phrase and give it a
pace and a flow...to create subtlety in aesthetic quality. This is a mature writer who has mastered his craft and has considerable breadth in his
repertoire. His style is sometimes overly compressed and disconnected for my taste, but there is eroticism, there is subtlety, there is imagination,
there are unexpected twists and turns. There is much to be recommended in this high quality volume.' The online version is available to some whose
institutions have a subscription.
Beam's insistence on being his own man in his own setting is notable because many writers of his era have sought
support of the large gay communities in urban centers. Just as his writing reflects the courage to avoid the
current fashion & seek something more lasting, so his living in a small southern community is based on the
conviction that he belongs there by right & is needed there for his ability to contribute to the richer life of the
—Critic Cy Dillon
Jeffery Beam's The Beautiful Tendons: Uncollected Queer Poems 1969-2007 proves what many of us have known for
time: he is one of our most important & valuable poets. This is clearly evident in this batch of uncollected works.
No matter what he touches on, it is always observed with Beam's precise & careful eye in spare, direct language
that's as fresh as a sunrise & the sweet air of morning. Read these poems & brighten your day. I guarantee it.
—Novelist & memoirist Michael Rumaker
Though the work here was chosen for its subject—male love
friendship—it offers an excellent sampling of all that that's
valuable in this poet, whose work ought to be more familiar to
readers of poetry than it is. An unrelenting intelligence
drives Beam's poems toward an agenda that's mystical, sexual,
pantheist. He is one of Whitman's wild children...Passionate
and wistful, these are poems about the spirit of love, and the
mysteries of affection, not the sexual result thereof. The
skill displayed in these 75 or so poems is often
extraordinary. "A Man Mutilated by Desire," written in the
manner of Cesar Vallejo, just about outdoes the master, and
demonstrates Beam's ability to replicate poems of any type or
in any style....Meanwhile in poems such as the one that lends
its title, Beam's own style-precise, pared down-moves images
and ideas along in ways that consistently surprise and
delight. The 7 terse lines of "I Fell in Love With" rise to
the level of Chinese masters such as Confucius as they
skillfully build around his tree metaphor to capture the one
thing about love there is to regret: its brevity. The success
of these poems, and the poet's work generally, owes to Beam's
consistent focus on developing a thought and allowing us to
watch it move, grow, die without embellishment or gimmicks. He
is the rare thing, a poet of depth and complexity who takes
evident satisfaction in making himself understood.
Poet and critic, Jim Cory, from the unedited version of the
review which appeared in The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
The Beautiful Tendons: Uncollected Queer Poems 1969-2007 is a fascinating collection of verse by Jeffrey
Beam that combine
sexuality and spirituality to the benefit of both. Beam has been writing for almost four decades; and any literary gay man who is
unaware of Beam or his poems ought to be ashamed of himself! If anything, The Beautiful Tendons serves as a good introduction to this
unjustly ignored artist.
—Jesse Monteagudo in AfterElton: News,
Reviews & Commentary on Gay and Bisexual Men in Entertainment and the
Media (July 16,
The gift to the reader is this: an accomplished, graceful writer sharing work from over thirty years, poems that
sing from the heart of desire. Poetry of contemplation, lived experience & Passion; Beam's voice is joyful, carnal,
—Poet, writer, & activist Andy Quan
The lyrics of The Beautiful Tendons do what poems ought to do. They brim with melancholy & love, a
& a delicious eroticism, the beauties of humanity & the natural world. They combine thoughtful & evocative depths
with a pellucid simplicity of phrasing. Like Whitman's work, they celebrate both the body & the soul. What a
luxury & a delight to have so many of Jeffery Beam's poems in one handsome volume.
—Poet, fiction writer, memoirist, & activist, Jeff Mann
Beam's imagery draws from outside the American landscape. There is only the field made elven-strange. It's the
curious union of American objectivist aesthetics, whose democratic intent seeks to free the poem's subject from the
weight of the author's hand, with a more distant landscape still populated by God & light & spirit. It's not so
remarkable that such an instinct should be found in America, but that, bent to these interests, Beam should be as
publicly successful as he is. After all, this is nowhere near American Idol. It's also far from the Southern
confessional, & the academic, postmodern difficulty—those twin mainstreams of American poetry. Wisely, Beam never
attempted to make himself sellable. He chose instead a smaller scale, working with regional, small presses, building
connections with regional artists to produce an array of projects. Beam's position on the margins is doubled. As
a queer poet, he has a desire that the mainstream world is discomforted by & he lives in a world where his value is
openly contested. He has mastered the difficult work of stopping at the awkward or seemingly naïve celebration &
leaving it bare, without another layer of words, so that no other surfaces lie between reader & poem.
—Poet & Critic David Need
Recommended on Ron Silliman's blog, on Bob Arnold's Longhouse Woodburners We
website, and Christopher Hennessy's Outside the Lines
Chapel Hill News editor Mark Schultz meets the poet at a reading and comments on his work in Jeffery Beam, son of the
South—Raleigh News &
Recommended by the American Library Association Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered Round Table for libraries that have a GLBT or modern poetry
—Blog of The Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual & Transgendered Round Table (December 19, 2008).
He writes with great affection of the physical world and ruminates on the spiritual quest inspired by his Christian upbringing in
the "redneck" textile town of Kannapolis, N.C. Beam now lives in Hillsborough.
—Reading from The Beautiful Tendons selected by The Independent Weekly as
an "Our Pick" for the week's events (week
of October 9, 2008).
Amazon.com "Body Electric pick" from the Body Electric School (San Diego, CA)
Frank Stasio The State of Things on WUNC FM Radio
Asheville's community radio WPVM 103.5 FM welcomes Jeffery Beam to WordPlay
DG Martin Who's Talking on WCHL Chapel Hill
Short interview on Queer Rainbow Radio, WOIC-AM 1230,
(aired August 10) Sponsored by the Fund for Southern Communities
Featured reader at numerous venues in North Carolina and the South, and at the 2008 Atlanta Queer Literary Festival,
2009 first annual GALLA
& Lesbian Literary Arts Festival) (Stonewall Archives, Fort Lauderdale), and as the keynote speaker at Ferrum College's
2008 Arts &
Humanities Conference "Gender Roles in a Shrinking World".
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Last updated: August 17, 2009