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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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