Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Month: March, 2023

My Reading of My Ekphrastic Poem, “The Currency of His Light.”

My new book, The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) takes its title from my poem of the same name, which originally appeared in the online journal, The Ekphrastic Review, on November 23, 2020.

The poem was inspired by impressionist painter Claude Monet’s series of paintings, “The Houses of Parliament,” which were painted between 1900, when Monet was in London, and 1905, when he completed the series in his studio in Giverny, France.

Monet was attempting to capture the fleeting variations of light in the foggy, smoggy atmosphere of turn of the nineteenth Century London. In a letter to his wife dated Sunday 18 March 1900, he wrote:

‘Today was a day of terrible struggle, and it will be the same until I leave. Only I need more canvases: there’s no other way to get anything done, than to have different ones going for all kinds of weather, all kinds of harmonies, that’s the real way to do it and, at the beginning, one always expects to find the same effects again and finish them: that’s what leads to these dreadful transformations that are worse than useless.

‘As you see, it’s not enthusiasm that I lack, for I have something like 65 canvases covered with colour and I still need more, this country is something quite out of the ordinary: so I shall have to order more canvases. What a bill I’m going to have from Lechertier’s!’

During the time I was writing this poem, I also had been reading John Milton’s poem, “On His Blindness,” and was captivated by the line “When I consider how my light is spent…” That line, and Monet’s hours spent trying to capture elusive light on canvas made me think of time as a sort of currency (the only real currency any of us have to spend), and of his producing his paintings as investing in another medium of currency, as if he might be coining his own “currency”; hence the title.

Here is my attempt to convey the poem and Monet’s work as a reading accompanied by images of Monet’s paintings:

I hope you enjoy this video. Roy Beckemeyer, 03-23-2023:

Roy Beckemeyer reading his poem, “The Currency of His Light” accompanied by background images of paintings from the series “The Houses of Parliament,” (Claude Monet, 1900-1905).

Posted 03-24-2023 by Roy Beckemeyer.

A Line from Jane Kenyon’s Poem, “Year Day,” Inspired My Poem, “Hummingbird”

My poem, “Hummingbirds” can be found on p. 8 of my new book, The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023). The poem was inspired by my many years of observation of hummingbirds as an avid bird watcher, and by the last lines of Jane Kenyon’s poem, “Year Day,” which I used as an epigraph: “Here are the gestures / of my hands. Wear them in your hair.” The poem contains allusions to pop-culture stop-motion animation as well as to the classic 1930 Marlene Dietrich movie “The Blue Angel.”

Here is a link to “Hummingbirds,” which first appeared in the online literary journal MacQueen’s Quinterley (Issue 11, January 2022).

And here is a link to Jane Kenyon’s poem, “Year Day.”

The Late Texas Poet Vassar Miller: Another poetic influence represented in my new book The Currency of His Light

My latest poetry book, The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) contains two short poems inspired by quotes from work by the two-time Texas Poet Laureate, Vassar Miller (1924-1998). I suspect quite a few readers will not be familiar with Miller and her work, so thought that I should elaborate a bit here.

I own two (of her ten) books of poetry, Wage War on Silence (1960) and My Bones Being Wiser (1963), both put out by Wesleyan University Press.  Both the epigraphs I used were from Wage War on Silence, which was a Pulitzer Prize nominee in 1961. The University of North Texas Press holds a yearly poetry book contest in Miller’s name. She lived in Houston all her life (she had cerebral palsy which made mobility and speech difficult), and she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Houston. She reviewed books for the Houston Post in the 1950s and 1960s, taught creative writing at the St. John’s School in Houston and was writer-in-residence at the University of St. Thomas. The short biography from which some of this information came may be found on the Texas State Historical Association website. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

In Miller’s obituary in The New York Times (Nov. 8, 1998), Rick Lyman noted: “Many Texas writers and critics, most notably Larry McMurtry, lamented the lack of attention paid to her work, which had never been considered particularly fashionable until late in her career. ‘That she is to this day little known, read or praised in Texas is the most damning comment possible on our literary culture,’ he wrote in a 1981 essay in The Texas Observer.”

After McMurtry’s essay appeared, Miller was named Texas Poet Laureate in 1982 and again in 1988. Her collected papers, which include her correspondence with such luminaries as McMurtry, Richard Hugo, and James Wright, are in the Archives of the University of Houston.

A lovely memoir about Miller and her personality and work may be found in Jenni Simmons’ Curator Magazine article “She Spoke to Silence.”

Here is one of my two poems inspired by quotes from her work, after which I have added Vassar Miller’s poem, “Tree of Silence.” My epigraph is the first line of that poem.


“Along the branches of our silence hang our words.”
—Vassar Miller, “The Tree of Silence”

The words form,
rounded as apples,
as oblong pears suddenly
succulent, the fleshy home
of pips, of seedling insights,
ideas of future generations
of thoughts and proposals yet
unsaid, but pregnant with years
of considered cogitation to come,
misunderstandings avoided, loves
never lost, brilliant discourses
instigated by foliferous buds,
by orange leaves of words
all strung, curled, intricately
scalloped by the clenched
teeth, the coiled tongue
of silence.

By Roy Beckemeyer, from The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023), p. 102.


“The Tree of Silence

      (For Nancy)

Upon the branches of our silence hang our words,
Half-ripened fruit.
Gone are the months of summer, gone
Beyond pursuit.
Let us leave, though pinched and wan,
The windfalls wither
Under the tree whose shade affords
No shelter either.

For when was language ever food for human yearning!
Sun-gilded rain
Mocking the sheen of golden peach,
Words only drain
Hearts of strength; let mortal speech
Make time and way
For life, the long and lonely yearning
How to pray.”

By Vassar Miller, from Wage War on Silence (Wesleyan University Press, 1960), p. 51.

I sincerely hope that this piece encourages you to read more of my poetry, and more of Vassar Miller’s work as well. Please link to my author’s page for information on how to acquire a copy of The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023).

~Roy Beckemeyer 17 March 2023.

Another poem from my new book, The Currency of His Light

Here is another example poem from The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023), which will be available around March 24, 2023. Again, I chose a poem inspired by a quote from another poet’s work. In this case, that of Pat Daneman, Lenexa, Kansas poet whose 2018 book After All (FutureCycle Press) was a runner-up for the 2018 Hefner-Heitz Kansas Book Award and first runner-up for the 2019 Thorpe-Menn award for literary excellence.

There are actually three poems in my book that contain, as epigraphs, quotes from the book After All. The one I chose for today is:


“Your body is a science
experiment—all hypotheses,
no promises.”—Pat Daneman
from “Time Remaining”

You grow from single cell
to what you are the day you die
in stages poorly understood,
cells dividing according to
instructions coiled onto
strings of proteins mankind
struggles still to read,
signaled by potions,
by stringent codes of here
not there by logic devices
illogical in execution,
by mistake, by precise
adjudication, by what
you can only see as evil
intent or loving beneficence,
debilitating symptom or heirloom
of succulent grace.

By Roy Beckemeyer, from The Currency of His Light, (Turning Plow Press, 2023, p. 76).

As noted, the epigraph is from Pat Daneman’s poem “Time Remaining,” which appears on p. 54 in After All (FutureCycle Press, 2018).

I hope this poem will inspire someone to pick up a copy of either of these books or at least to look online for more poetry from me or from Pat Daneman, whose writing I find quite inspiring. I expect that you will, as well.

Roy Beckemeyer, 16 March, 2023.

A poem, its inspiration (as epigraph), and a link to the poetic source of those words.

In my latest poetry book, The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023), the theme of the collection as you might suspect, is light and how it expresses itself, by its presence or its absence, in our lyrics and our lives.

In this book, as in my previous four books of poems, there are many poems inspired by quotes, by the words of other poets and authors, which I find just as inspiring as images or as how light shines into one’s soul.  With such poems I always present the quote as an epigraph, laying out the source of my inspiration.

Here is my poem, “Bedrock and Deluge,” which explores how in one person both stability and chaos can be present, simmering or boiling over, as circumstances change. It found its inspiration in a phrase from a lovely poem, “How to Swallow a River,” by Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi, which appeared in the Volume 86, No. 4, Summer 2020 issue of New Letters. Her poem in its entirety can be found at the New Letters site: The phrase I used as epigraph appears on the second last line of the first page of the poem.

Bedrock and Deluge 

“Pack your throat with the stones a river depends on…”
—Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi, “How to Swallow a River”

You are stone, I believe,
inexpressibly alone even though embedded
in the gravelly stream bed of your ancestry,
continuously withstanding the sinuous
deconstruction of history’s meandering ways.

Yet again, you are the evocation of a deluge,
water swallowing earth embankments,
the chaos of spate and surge dislodging
stone and stability simultaneously.

You are the beguiling yin-ness
and yang-ness of mythology’s shape changer,
shedding the stolid worker’s bedrock steadiness
at shift-change to become River, voraciously
gnawing at every bound in sight.

This poem by Roy Beckemeyer appears on p. 21 of The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023).
Thanks for pausing to read this, and, I hope, to read Prosdocimi’s poem as well.

I hope this sample tickles your fancy for more from The Currency of His Light.