Assault on Nature by Gary Beck

by Roxanna Bennett
Assault on Nature
Gary Beck
86 pages
Paperback $11.99, eBook $5.99.
ISBN: 978-1-941058-00-8.

Gary Beck’s fourth book of poetry Assault on Nature is a rumination on the swift erosion of the natural world at the hands of industry and apathy. A bleak portrayal of a world ravaged by greed, Beck moves seamlessly from cityscape to landscape, from dirty alleys to dark clouds. There are some beautiful images juxtaposed with great brutality.

From ‘Detached Mission:’

“I understand why pilots
flying planes, pregnant
with a belly full of bombs
do not care
that they can obliterate
the cities of the world”

And this disturbingly lovely couplet from ‘Prey:’

“as silent as surgeons
entering flesh.”

Beck executes excellent examples of alliteration such as: “as aimless as the urgent ants” and “Murder, manslaughter, massacres, arson, explosion, electrocution” and builds some very clever end rhymes as in the poems ‘System’ and ’T’is the Season.’

Beck’s central themes are pollution, urban sprawl and class warfare and the obvious and great divide between the haves and the have-nots, as in these verses from ‘Tyranny:’

“We raised our glances up
with envy and desire,
yet we knew our place
was never in the castle”

Beck’s work is a ruthless interrogation of a bleak world; a scathing condemnation of the ruin of the natural world and the perceived indifference of our governments and institutions. However, some poems read like a selection from a newspaper’s Letters to the Editor; Beck has deep-felt opinions that are sometimes barely restrained by rhyme, as in these verses from the poem ‘Condition Dangerous:’

“Participation in representative government
is not a convenience, but an exertion.”

and

“It may not be too late to discover
the only thing worse than our candidates
are our elected officials,
giving us 2001 problems
and only 1979 solutions.”

‘Tyranny’ in particular reads like prose; it would perhaps work better as a work of non-fiction than of poetry.

In the short two line poem ‘Sneak Attack’ Beck writes:

“The greatest form of slavery
is mindless watching of TV.”

While Beck’s intention is to call attention to the collective passivity of the developed world and America in particular, the greatest form of slavery is slavery and to say otherwise feels like a dismissal of collective historical sin.

The sentiment of Beck’s work is sometimes obscured by his tendency to sermonize. The poems would be more effective if he showed his reader jarring imagery instead of telling them how to feel about his topics. At times it feels as though he wishes to absolve himself of the responsibility he is telling his reader we all share, as in this line:

“I wasn’t entirely responsible/for terrible conditions.”
Roxanna Bennett lives and works on the outskirts of Toronto as a freelance writer and artist educator. Her work has appeared in a long list of publications and has been rejected by an even longer list of publications. She shamelessly reads comic books and has lots of great ideas for changing the heroic policy of not killing villains. Roxanna cannot do math of any kind nor does she know the difference between Imperial and metric measurements. Being Canadian, she writes words with an excessive number of vowels that American word processors maddeningly refuse to recognize as correct. Her first book of poetry 'The Uncertainty Principle' is out now from Tightrope Books.

© 2014, Roxanna Bennett