Out of Silence
15 February 2020. 101 pp. ISBN 978-3-901993-76-3
£10.50 (+ 2.00 p&p), €11.00 (+ 2.00 p&p), US$ 13.00 (+ 3.00 p&p)
“In this generous gathering of Beake's work, a resourceful imagination is at work and language is given a bright new currency. When Beake writes of "Mysteries beyond compass" we sense an affinity with John Cowper Powys. They share a relish for the natural world, and both writers are distinguished by their spiritual reach. Both evoke and value “the spirits of a chalk realm”. In Out of Silence we find elemental qualities. Here are poems where myth is presented and contemplated in language that stills the mind’s chaos. The reader is taken to visionary situations which yet remain grounded, keeping “a memory / of steadfastness in dark days”. There are also beautiful grief utterances, and a wonderful array of South West landscapes and atmospheres. We travel on journeys into history that bring human experience of the past into our present moment. Close observation gives shape and portent to the verse throughout. Deeply meditative, formally sound, full of thoughtful gravity, on occasion sprightly and nimble with wit, these poems clear an inward space among the noisy chatter of life. They are a refreshing spring, yet never turn their gaze from life’s conflicts and sorrow. Beake is a classicist, and the closing section of his versions from Horace, Theognis and Solon, Alcuin, Ronsard, Du Bellay and Tu Fu, rounds off this collection with verve and aplomb, beauty, and necessary stringency.”
"These terrific poems are like “bright water flowing” we are able to cup in our palms. Silence, generating “something out of a void”, features thrillingly in poetry that, in Beake's hands, offers us pieces that are lightly autobiographical but rooted in our natural world; words that “rattle to the eye like bells”. The poet’s certain grasp of both human and natural history gives us poems that seamlessly interweave the two. It is the best kind of poetry about the earth and all that lives on it and grows from it – as rich as “good honest manure”. Make no mis-take, this is poetry that celebrates the living “shadows of the dead”, whilst compelling us to cherish what we have. It is a remarkably inclusive collection, so when Beake exclaims “Oh, all these humans”, we might feel trepidation but it is underpinned with joy and hope. Hugely enjoyable."
"Despite the metaphysical title, there is much tribute to the entities of nature for which the poet has strong feelings: “But this tree has such individuality / It would hold my attention I feel / almost any day of the year”. A note of nostalgia frequently lurks in these poems, but it is treated suggestively not sentimentally: “Distant cliffs and jutting-out rock / seem so grey and inhuman / – as in those long lost sailing-ship days / we love, who did not live those years.” Lastly, from time to time, the poet produces brilliant comparisons like: “The little river is full / of wild water like white flames.” Beake’s knowledge of British history is wide-ranging, and his ability to imagine it and make it live through the thoughts and talk of historical characters is deeply impressive. Whether he is recalling a visit to Aquae Sulis (Bath) by a Roman, or as in the poem “What Is to Be” that abruptly introduces Alfred of Wessex in the midst of a contemporary coastal description, or the Spanish Ambassador musing on the future of the young Queen Elizabeth, the 'voices' talk and meditate over short or long historical periods. Then beyond the historical, a poem like “The Frozen Maiden” takes us into the land of dream and magic. Deeper still there is religious feeling; and frequent tributes to other humans like “Caroline”: “at heart kind as few of us are”. There is an especially fine tribute to Beake’s father. Here and there, too, as in the poem “Swans”, for example, the poet has animals commenting on the human. And, as stated at the beginning of this note, the things of nature like wind and trees are a forceful presence in many of his poems. As for Fred Beake’s ‘style’ it is that of a serious eccentricity that is uniquely pleasurable. The accessible, the readable and the intelligent in poetry always appeal to me, and for this I can recommend Out of Silence."
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Table of Contents
Excerpts from Out of Silence
Out of Silence
It comes in silence dimly
on wings that are quite invisible.
No time to the coming or the ending.
During it no expectation happens.
No time to the coming
or the ending
by the banks of the dark water
beside which new meaning glowers.
There is no Terran music like it,
not the great white surging tides,
or the storm on the hill ridge,
or the resonance of the waterfall.
How does this manage in a stillness
in which other things would disappear?
How does it come to such clear meaning
though nothing is said or done?
News that comes from nothing,
being that shifts great worlds,
song that lacks a singer,
this something out of a void …
The Wind Waters
The wind waters are trickling down the high mountain
through soggy bog and jutting, angled, dark rocks.
It is such an easy step down from the clouds above,
but surely nothing much can come
from something so insignificant. But look!
Suddenly they are possessed.
The white foam rages and races.
Slowly they sculpt out
great giants from granite and uproot trees
that were meant for a thousand years.
Later of course all is more tranquil
as they provide for the thirst of cattle.
But then they must modify the bitter salt of the sea
and their individuality disappear.
Except the Sun provides for their resurrection,
raising them out of the ocean waters
to rejoin the clouds of the great heaven
and resume their remaking of the earth.
Reviews of Out of Silence
"There is a mystical element to some of Beake’s poetry, which in general focuses strongly on the natural world. […] What Beake does believe in is poetic inspiration (‘True beauty seeks you out / like a cat deciding whether or not / to jump on your lap’, as he memorably puts it in “Strange Happening”) and it is — as I read it — the subject of the title poem, “Out of Silence”, which carries an echo of Keats’s ‘viewless wings of Poesy’. […] Although frequently symbolic, Beake’s world is recognisably real. He has his feet firmly on the ground even when he is looking at the sky […]. He doesn’t ignore society, although he may at times feel alienated from it […]. Even Beake’s historical poems, dealing with periods such as Dark Age Britain or the English Civil War, have a relevance to our own troubled times and the poet’s own personal history appears in poems about childhood in the West Riding and student days in Brighton, as well as those written in memory of his father and brother. The poems are presented in a common format, with every other line indented, perhaps to suggest that these are modern elegiacs. Although they cover a wide range, there is a consistency of tone, with Beake favouring a conversational style that is admirably clear, but also capable of evoking atmosphere. Although I am not qualified to judge them as translations, the “Versions” that end the book (which include Horace, Alcuin, Ronsard, du Bellay and Tu Fu) are a pleasure to read as English poems in their own right — and ones that chime with the concerns of Beake’s own poetry. Fred Beake may have reached the autumn of his life, but it is proving a fruitful season."
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