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A Whaler's Dictionary Paperback – November 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A supple and well-read poet with a fine ear, Beachy-Quick has long studied—some might even say he has been obsessed with—Moby-Dick; his second (of three) books of verse, Spell (2004), wove references and passages from Melville's novel into poems. This much longer book of short prose essays responds in more straightforward ways: each of its two-to-three–page pieces takes up a topic from the lives and thoughts of Ahab, Ishmael and their crew (such as Vengeance, Flame and Fate) and reflects on it. Often the whale, and the book, represent the endlessness of all quests, our enduring hunger for the right, last word. Jewish philosophy and wisdom literature (Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas), other famous modern thinkers (Wittgenstein, Derrida) and Shakespeare's King Lear also guide Beachy-Quick's thoughts, while the rhythms of not only Melville but Emerson and Thoreau guide his resonant prose. The poet Charles Olson launched his own career with a book about Melville, and Beachy-Quick may have Olson in mind; he has certainly paid rapt attention to a world masterpiece. Yet that attention too often produces predictable arguments, ideas that many other readers of Melville will easily recognize, though Beachy-Quick's lyrical evocation may also give them new life: The whale is the wall behind which the universe mockingly lingers whole. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

After immersing himself in Moby Dick for many years, poet and teacher Beachy-Quick found himself embarked on a “mad task.” Following Ishmael’s lead, he has created a whaler’s dictionary. But unlike Melville’s narrator—whose “unfinished” dictionary focuses on whales, vast beings hidden from human view, and the dangerous art of whaling—Beachy-Quick is hunting concealed aspects of language and attempting to fathom, articulate, and order the oceanic depths and currents of meaning in Melville’s inexhaustible masterpiece. His poetic and metaphysical definitions take the form of brief essays full of yearning, mystery, and discovery that sail beneath such headings as Brain, Fate, Hunger, Idolatry, Omen, Paradox, Starry Archipelagoes, Tattoo, and Void. The resulting surprising and evocative mix of analysis and trance, contemplation and literary detection embodies a poignant, searching, even exalted communion with Moby Dick’s text and subtext. Beachy-Quick’s lyric and philosophical dictionary is also a browser’s delight, with see also lists that launch the reader on intriguing voyages into the realms of myth and archetype, the sea’s blue wilderness, and the uncharted waters of the collective unconscious. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571313095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571313096
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of five books of poetry, Circle's Apprentice, North True South Bright, Spell, Mulberry, and This Nest, Swift Passerine, five chapbooks, Apology for the Book of Creatures, Overtakelesness, Heroisms, Canto and Mobius Crowns (the latter two both written in collaboration with the poet Srikanth Reddy), a book of interlinked essays on Moby-Dick, A Whaler's Dictionary, as well as a collection of essays, meditations and tales, Wonderful Investigations. Reddy and Beachy-Quick's collaboration has recently been released as a full-length collection, Conversities, and he has also collaborated with the essayist and performance artist Matthew Goulish on Work From Memory. In 2013, University of Iowa Press will eb publishing a monograph on John Keats in their Muse Series (editor Richard Roberston) titled A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work, and Coffee House Press will be publishing his first novel, An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky. He is a contributing editor for the journals A Public Space, Dear Navigator, West Branch and Tupelo Quarterly, as well as serving on the board for Squircle Press. After graduating from the University of Denver, he attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He has taught at Grinnell College, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently teaching in the MFA Writing Program at Colorado State University. His work has been a winner of the Colorado Book Award, and has been a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Prize, and the PEN/USA Literary Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation residency, and taught as Visiting Faculty at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in spring 2010. He is currently one of two Monfort Professors at CSU for 2013-2015.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By dan on April 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm just discovering this paean to Moby-Dick, and have yet finished just a few pages after decades of musings on the original. Like Melville, Mr. Beachy-Quick yanks his most poetical self onto the page, waxing philosophical about the relationship of reader and writer, and much else. My only regret is that there is no entry for Ishmael. Alas, if I could write like this. I salute you, Dan!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elena Karina Byrne on February 17, 2010
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A Whaler's Dictionary is a marvelous personal essay book that subverts expectation and provides
a wild array of fact and fiction in a unique setting-format. This is no doubt one of many new genre
mixes where intellect and imagination merge.

Elena Karina Byrne
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