My Questions, My Answers – Gary Beck

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When was your first interest in poetry?

I was 10 or 11 and I read Poe stories that I loved, then read his poetry. I memorized Ulalume which I frequently chanted aloud during late night walks . A few years later I was swept away by the Romantics, Byron, Keats, Shelley and wrote poor imitations – my first writings.

Who inspires you?

I am often inspired by people who strive to do what’s right, under difficult conditions. My current favorites are Liz Chaney and President Zelensky.

Why is poetry important?

To me, poetry is the direct vehicle to reach people, the least expensive of the arts, as long as it’s meaningful and comprehensible, especially for children, our young minds who will inherit the future.

Who is your favorite poet?

I have so many favorite poets the list would take a while. A few include: Grey, Eliot, Stefan Mallarme’, Corso, Cummings, Lermontov. So many.

Who influenced you?

Walt Whitman was my greatest poet inspiration and I fully adopted his: Resist much. Obey little. Other inspirations were several union leaders in the 1930s, who fought the bosses, especially John L. Lewis.

Poetry’s role in the world?

Poetry can have a place in the world if it comes to terms with the rapid evolvement of the Information Age and the progress of electronic technology and social media. It must be relevant to the times, or it is outdated and easily discarded. When I was in grade school they taught Hiawatha and Evangeline. That was the equivalent of music appreciation teaching The Flight of the Bumblebee. It’s got to be exciting, or young minds will go to sleep.

Favorite poem?

I have a lot of favorite poems, Russian, French, English, American. So many. Grey’s Elegy, Prufrock, Buffalo Bill, I could go on and on…

Where have you been published?

I have been published in hundreds of literary journals and many books: poetry, novels, short stories, plays, essays.

What are the characteristics of modern literature?

There has been a dramatic turn away from story telling, paralleled by poetry becoming too focused on personal revelation, especially childhood dissatisfactions.  The growing rapidity of the transmission of information is changing the mindset and perspectives of poets, who are less concerned with issues of our times. 

What drives your creativity?

The daily issues and conditions of life in the eternal struggle between greed and humaneness in modern society.

Should a writer be political?

Obviously it is up to each writer to determine what they believe. However, like many other times in history, our times are tumultuous. I believe the true writer is obligated to participate in the problems of civilization. 

 


 

About the Author

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 31 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 4 books of plays.  Gary lives in New York City.