With her first collection of poetry, The Diminishing House, Assistant Professor of English Nicky Beer was awarded the Colorado Book for Poetry. Prior to its publication, she had already earned awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Now Beer has finished The Octopus Game, a new collection focused on – you guessed it – cephalopods.
"Showing people what poetry can be about is very important to me, both as a writer of poetry and a teacher of poetry," says Beer. "I think people sometimes have a limited idea of what poetry can be, and it's important to me to show that poetry is open to the stuff that people might not think about–for instance the sciences." Beer's done extensive research on octopi—including visiting aquariums and reading Jacques Cousteau—in order to write poetry about them: "What I love about the sciences is how they demand that one be adventurous, curious and attentive, and that applies to the creative writing process as well. Being an inquisitive person is as applicable to those working in the creative arts as it is to those working in the sciences." Beer is also inspired by visual representations of cephalopods by artists such as Salvador Dali and Masami Teraoka, and often writes ekphrastic poetry, which is poetry that responds to works of visual art. Beer loves teaching others to write ekphrastic poetry as well, and as a visiting professor recently at New York University took a group of faculty and students on a literary tour of the Museum of Modern Art, reading poetry inspired by the art in the museum's permanent collection.
PRAIRIE OCTOPUS, AWAKE
The night's turned everything to junipers
shagged & spooked with cerulean chalk-fruit,
weird berries whiffing of Martians in rut.
I forget this isn't my universe
sometimes. Sometimes I think I was falling
most of my life to land here, a lone skirl
in the immaculate hush. In my world
I waltzed with my ink-self, my black shantung.
Owls swallow vowels in stilled trees. It's not
sleeplessness, it's fear of what the dark will
do if I don't keep a close eye on it.
Blue minutes leak from the pricked stars' prisms,
seep into the earth unchecked. Just as well—
I've hardly enough arms to gather them.
You can read more of Beer's work and learn more at her website.