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The Waste Land And Other Poems

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Poetry. Winner of the 2011 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. John Beer's first collection, THE WASTE LAND AND OTHER POEMS, employs the wit of a philosopher and the ear of a poet to stage ways of reading that are political, personal, and theoretical. The speaker of these poems also brings humor to the dissecting table, to prod the legacies of ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Canarium Books
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4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  107 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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Margaret Wappler
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
References very specific Chicago locales and fragments of old Pixies songs. What's not to love?
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The title and cover set my shields on high for another bout with conceptual irony, but Beer’s Waste Land is neither a writing through nor a winking critique of Eliot’s. Instead the gesture, in a book that foregrounds attitude and gesture over concept or procedure, blends an old-world Continental elegance with a contemporary feeling for absurdist juxtaposition, like “ a septet of cardinals/lunching at the Rainforest Café.” Feuerbach’s Das Wesen des Christenthums turns into “Christian Thumbways”; ...more
Aug 02, 2013 added it
Shelves: poetry
I was so up to my eyeballs in books with a master concept or device to structure and unify them that when Sally Keith gave us Stevens' Harmonium I didn't get what it was that made it an exemplar of first book construction. Now I do and Beer's TWLAOP is like Harmonium in that it shows through a selection of discreet poems the amplitude of his thinking & technical ability without seeming scattered or unfocused. Each poem is its own galaxy w/o its own internal structuring gravity. It's a rare t ...more
John Pappas
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you take the title from your first book from T.S. Eliot, you better be damn good. John Beer is. Haunted by modernism and theory (Eliot, Wittgenstein, Benjamin), loss and wonder, Beer forges a new path, somewhere between the recent language poetry of Armantrout and the contemporary gleeful and anarchic voice of Zapruder. Funny, incisive and pathetic,and referencing Adorno, Journey and the Pixies, Beer's work is as intensely personal as Berryman's but more accessible and stylistically inventive ...more
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poems

I can't decide if he's kidding or what. I think he is. I found him in turns wildly funny and highly pretentious--and I liked it.

It takes a special kind of ego to call your poetry collection a name rather more famous for T.S. Eliot, but Beer is good enough and charmingly self-effacing enough that it works. And one reflects on the changing zeitgeist: "HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME" = "BORDERS WILL BE CLOSING IN FIFTEEN MINUTES". Ok then.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
All Canarium authors are restive & fitful.
five extra points for the cover, of course.
"This is not, for example, a political poem, / Because the dead have no politics. They might have / A hunger, but nothing you've ever known / Could begin to assuage it."
Sam Walker
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The variety in his writing astounds me.
Taylor Napolsky
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This has good imagery and is very unpredictable/interesting.
Aug 12, 2014 added it
I really loved 4 poems in this book, The Wasteland and 3 poems all titled "Flowers."
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Many brilliant poems in this book.
Cade Miller
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Not quite as provocative as Lucinda, but nevertheless a terrific first collection by one of the most intriguing poets of our present moment. It lives up to its name.

UPDATE: Upon second reading, this collection (much like Lucinda) gets even better; this is one of the best contemporary poetry collections I've ever read. Beer successfully channels Eliot and other Modernist figures (Pound, Kafka, etc.) into poetry that is completely original and feels tailor-made for the present moment -- much how "
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“It was when they determined that I had been born dead
That my life became easier to understand. For a long time,
I wondered why rooms felt colder when I entered them,
Why nothing I said seemed to stick in anyone’s ear,
Frankly, why I never had any money. I wondered
Why the cities I walked through drifted into cloud
Even as I admired their architecture, as I pointed out
The cornerstones marked “1820,” “1950.” The only songs
I ever loved were filled with scratch, dispatches from
A time when dead ones like me were a dime a dozen.
I spent my life in hotels: some looked like mansions,
Some more like trailer parks, or pathways toward
A future I tried to point to, but how could I point,
With nothing but a hand no hand ever matched,
With fingers that melted into words that no one read.

I rehearsed names that others taught me: Caravaggio,
Robert Brandom, Judith, Amber, Emmanuelle Cat.
I got hungry the way only the dead get hungry,
The hunger that launches a thousand dirty wars,
But I never took part in the wars, because no one lets
A dead man into their covert discussions.
So I drifted from loft to cellar, ageless like a ghost,
And America became my compass, and Europe became
The way that dead folks talk, in short, who cares,
There’s nothing to say because nobody listens,
There’s no radio for the dead and the pillows seem
Like sand. Let me explain: when you’re alive,
As I understand it, pillows cushion the head, the way
A lover might soothe the heart. The way it works for me,
In contrast, is everything is sand. Beds are sand,
The women I profess to love are sand, the sound of music
In the darkest night is sand, and whatever I have to say
Is sand. This is not, for example, a political poem,
Because the dead have no politics. They might have
A hunger, but nothing you’ve ever known
Could begin to assuage it.”
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