My initial impression of Tim J. Myers’ Dear Beast Loveliness: Poems of the Body was that it was not to be read quickly. From its first stanza it offers detail akin to a medical textbook, first, and then as a series of poems. The book’s subtitle is not false advertising when it comes to the body. These are, in fact, poems of the body. Myers’ introduction addresses this notion in poetry, an introduction which goes a bit overboard as far as a lead-in to a book of poems might go. But at least he expresses an awareness of the notion. Myers does begin with his first few poems which suggest there isn’t irony in his work here, nor room for misinterpretation. I admire this as much as I admire satisfying surprise, so I was prepared for anything. But then, until the poem Bulletin Board I didn’t feel the collection had begun. It started at this poem because it was the first time it’s noticed, and welcomed, the person of the poems begins to become apparent.
In To My Sibling, Miscarried 1956, Myers writes, “Now that the mystery of Me is a bit clearer in the mystery of Them.” Really terrific notes on fatherhood. In all, this was a good poem.
A Boy was astounding. I wrote the words, “loved this” on a sheet of paper, and by the next poem’s end, For Dancing, I thought I’d seen the scope of his talent spread out for the rest of the collection. The second stanza of When We Sleep was lovely, and by then I considered him someone capable of being a narrator, poet and academic all at once.
But as the book expands it makes the reader give up on celebrating it, as its triumphs are wonderful but few. As I read on, there were instances where it seemed a poem was trying harder than necessary to be a poem, as if the subject were assigned in a workshop. I still thought it was a solid collection by Concerning Sex, though I knew by then it wouldn’t ever be received as a great modern work because it was being too careful, or perhaps too inhibited. Too careful in that it lacks controversy, risk and more importantly, I think, human connection between writer and reader. It isn’t enough to write of human things and naturally have attached to them a sense of emotional reaction. This isn’t to say Myers should have had any of these objectives as his own. I applaud him for writing for himself, first, which clearly has happened in Dear Beast Loveliness. And as far as the poem Concerning Sex, overall it was very good, but the ending left me wanting as did many of his finales. Many of his beginnings, as well, were deterrents from entrance rather than invites. Modern poetry doesn’t need more dares to come in.
In Our Room was simple and touching, X-ray was near perfection and in An Eros Duet he confirms his poems light up when he is in them, present, being himself. The placement of Grammarians in Bed in this book led me to noting the book was “all over the place,” and it was then I felt this book was a first attempt. Not a bad attempt, but it is not a complete story of someone’s work. The arrangement of the poems is on the editors, too. By For Barney Clark, First Artificial Heart Recipient, it comes clear Myers has limited himself by his topic. Where he lost me (though I did gladly finish the book) was with the poem In Memoriam (1985). From the wealth of literature that comes from the era of AIDS, I imagine great offense being taken by Myers’ lack of education when it comes to the topic as it’s expressed in this poem. I read this nearly ten times so as not to misread, and while I don’t personally assume it to be an insensitive piece, on behalf of those who would I say it kind of is (by definition of insensitivity) and, at very least, it’s a product of conserving mental energy. I might have defended Myers more on this, perhaps attaching to him a naivety if it were written in 1985 when the epidemic was still confusing. But I recognized in this poem what it was in general that kept me so distant from the collection at large: as a poet Myers isn’t tender, nor is he rough, same as he is not hyper-academic nor confessional. His work is safe, and so, in safety it doesn’t sing. It isn’t to say any poet should ever fit somewhere specifically, but this collection of poems isn’t a developed thing yet. It’s a failing meal you eat at a friend’s dinner party that has so much potential that you eat it yet later, on the ride home, you tell your partner to pull over for drive-through. It just lacks.
I was genuinely bothered to be indifferent about this book. I love efforts of every writer because we’re all trying, and experimenting, and we fall flat most times alongside our bouts with varied successes. But nothing truly dazzles with Dear Beast Loveliness. A few “wow” moments exist, but against the backdrop of often bland generosities of good vocabulary. And there isn’t much to hold on to emotionally and in memory once read. If I could star rank it I’d give it a three, giving cheers to the effort and what it could be, but also understanding it’s being published to the applause of very few who haven’t considered that it’s not going to move readers seeking new poets to love and understand.