William Beale’s debut poetry collection titled They Call Us Loud is not my first foray into the world of spoken word. Though, despite my constant exposure and involvement in spoken word, I’ve yet to find an ultimate favourite spoken word poet and it is unfortunate that Beale is not the one for me as well.
Before I explain why Beale isn’t entirely my cup of tea, I have to write this: poetry, in whichever form, is an oral tradition but despite this, written poetry and spoken poetry are different. For me, written poetry is something that can be entirely enjoyed whether it is read in silence or performed out loud, while spoken poetry has more merit when preformed instead of silently read. I find the art of crafting spoken word poetry and written poetry different as well since spoken word poetry tends to be more direct.
With that said, I will start with the aspects of Beale’s collection of poetry that I liked. The first is the imagery (one of the crucial aspects of poetry, particularly since many ideas have been done to death throughout time) that Beale creates with his diction. It is not common for me to find contemporary poets who describe things like “drunkard butterflies” and “empire of his spine” because more often than not, such poets aren’t known enough for me to easily find them. It is only with a stroke of luck that I discovered William Beale.
The second thing I like about Beale’s poetry is how the topic of the majority of the poems is not romantic love and/or sex. Honestly, it seems like all people care about these days are those two—like what happened to life? Family? Friends? Romantic love and sex aren’t the only universal things in the world, for goodness’ sake and I’m so happy that Beale didn’t make either one of them as his main theme—the link connecting all his poems in They Call Us Loud.
The third thing I like…well, I don’t have a third. I don’t like Beale’s usage of alliteration for a number of his poems. I prefer subtle inclusions of alliteration, assonance and consonance. I like them to not be obvious—that they are not forced or give off a feeling like the poet is trying too hard, thus making the poem sound unnatural and in turn, disrupting my reading process. By this, I mean that the poem doesn’t flow smoothly from the tongue when reciting a poem with lines like:
back the barn, the burrs
buried down deep.
deep down, the birds bury the
barn further back, devoid of flight. (stanzas 1 and 2 of ‘the barn’, p. 10)
However, I’m also aware that Beale’s employment of alliteration, assonance and consonance, aren’t entirely obvious in many of his poems. Even so, this doesn’t mean that the few poems that do have such obvious usage of those literary devices, can be easily overlooked. In fact, I find them glaringly obvious because of their small numbers.
Other than that, I felt that some omission of words in certain poems, are rather odd. For example, this line “you swing open wooden door” from ‘closet monsters’ (p.16). Even if I switch my brain to Manglish mode, the line still doesn’t sound right. Of course, other people might not have this issue, and the act of omitting certain words can be a form of external deviation, but it just feels too extra for me.
Moreover, I also feel that some of the poems in this collection aren’t tight enough. They have some unnecessary words, maybe a line or a stanza. There are also some poems with ‘fat’ at the wrong places. I don’t know how to explain this properly, but it’s just a feeling I get every time I read/write a poem now. It’s like knowing that someone’s sentence is grammatically incorrect but you don’t know how to explain why it’s grammatically incorrect, except that it just doesn’t sound right.
All in all, Beale’s collection of poetry has surpassed my expectations. He may not entirely be my cup of tea, but with poems like ‘dedication’ (though, I loved the second half more than the first half of this one) and ‘a generation of gaps’, I can close an eye to the sappier poems I didn’t like.