Thursday, November 20, 2014


Marsh Hawk Press offers a “Three Questions” Series for its authors to discuss individual titles -- an Index to the Series is available HERE.  We are pleased to present this Q&A with Tom Beckett and his Marsh Hawk Press book, recipient of the 2013 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize:

1)  What is something not known or obvious about Dipstick(Diptych)? 

Dipstick(Diptych) comprises two long poems: “Overpainted Thresholds,” and “I Forgot.”  The book’s title alludes to its having two parts; but is the “dipstick” crossed out because it’s a mispronunciation of “diptych,” or because the book both is and isn’t an instrument for taking the measure of something?  Or…?

2)  Please share some responses to your book that’s surprised you, or made you happy or disappointed. 

“I Forgot,” the final poem in my book, was inspired by Joe Brainard’s great I Remember, his stunning catalogue poem of “I remember” anecdotes.  I wanted to pay homage to Brainard but I thought it might be interesting to approach memory from the standpoint of anecdotes and statements about things I’ve forgotten.  For example:

I forgot which version of my story was a fantasy


I forgot to put the leftovers in the fridge.


I forgot my lines.


I forgot to meet you halfway.


I forgot to tighten the bottle cap.


I forgot that you are allergic to shellfish.


I forgot that you are my sworn enemy.


I forgot that your political views are repugnant to me.



I was surprised by how enthusiastically Eileen Tabios responded to “I Forgot.” She has even based some of her recent work on the “I Forgot” structure.  It always makes me happy when something I’ve written inspires someone to do new work of their own. 

3)  If you had to choose a favorite poem or a poem to highlight from the book, which one would you choose and why?

I like both parts of my book, but I’m particularly fond of the first part (“Overpainted Thresholds”).  I think that it shakes the cage of my psyche in energetic and interesting ways.


Sad ecstasy of shadows
Coming into me.


All or
Nothing leaks out.


Limitless limited bodies.

Statues made of noise.



Overpainted, stained,
Smudged, smeared,
Scratched, half-erased pentimenti.

Your voices
Shadow mine.

Streak of color.
Cadence of speech.

Borders aren’t
Always apparent.


Borders aren’t
Always available
Or mappable, documentable.

There’s something
About networks.

There’s something in
My overlapping senses
Of things.

I didn’t want
To comment (or
Commit) but
Couldn’t help myself.

The noise
In me
Is undimmed.


You say
You want
For nothing.

This you,
This I
Are most
Peculiar constructions.

Talking to
Oneself in
Speaking to another
Is a kind
Of reverse ventriloquism.

The dummy lives.

How much

Can one
Listen to, embrace,
At once?

How attentive
Can one be?
Is this
A test
Of worth?

I am
Not beautiful.
I am

Not you.


How does one
Read a poem
Which is
Crossed out?





Tools, moods,

Rooms, food.


A sonic

Thing that

Thinks is

What I'm

Talking about.


This heaviness

Is unlikely

To be

Lifted soon.


Spaces one's

Inscribed upon,

Scratched into.


Swallow and

Swallow again.


Thresholds, tongues

Held. Hell

Is self-consciousness,

Thoughtless nests,

Nets or

Knotted chords.

Notes leak

Out of

What surrounds

One's aporias.


What is

Thinking called?

--Dancing, war,

Sex, writing?

--Being, language,

Maths, noise?


I had

A seizure

That I

Don't remember.

Tore me

Apart, put

Me together

Again, rearranged.


Drums and

Guitar mirror

One another.

Attention, practice

Always entwined

In exchange.


Wherever I

Am you're

Someplace else.




State. Presences
Out of register.


Torso in mirror

Receding faster

Than it appears.


The world
Is overseen
& underheard.


If philosophy is psychosis
If poetry is a ventriloquist act
If the robot’s notebook pages have been filled out and overwritten


What surrounds
One’s aporias?
--So-called nature?

Formula fiction skillfully
Fondles pleasure centers.

“Entanglement” means any set of conditions.
“Entrapment” means a condition.


What is the price of ambiguity?
What is the price of exactitude?


Nature scares me.
Human nature most of all.


One has
To acknowledge
The irreducible.


What about
The Body?


My Robot


Here between
The global
The local
I dream

My robot
Just arrived
In the mail.


The package
From within.

My robot
Emerges grinning.

I take
Its place
In the box.


My robot
Opens the box
I am in.

Our eyes lock.

“Happy Birthday,”
I say.



No thing
Isn’t connected

To some
Other thing,

To some
Unexpected thing.

Separations are
Social constructs.


Is there
Such a thing
As unmediated experience?


Where to
Begin again?


Sensation isn’t
A territory.
It’s weather.

Waiting is
The story,
Oratorio, opera,
Tap dance.


I’m not
Protected against
500,000 definitions.


I am
A series
Of interruptions.


Inside and
Outside all
The time.


My Robot
Is one hard
To parse sentence.

Try, if you
Want, to diagram
Our relationship.


Everything is
Virtual in its
Own way.




Will he
Sample me
Today or
Will he
Sample me


Robert Duncan, in "The Venice Poem," writes:
“The world is false as water.”
I’ll never understand that line.


I’ll never understand any thing.


What is thought’s object?


“What do you know?”
Was a common greeting
When I was young.

The formulaic reply
Almost always:
“Not much. You?”


Does anyone
Think much
About cultural
Assumptions anymore?


Irregular spacing

Is a symptom.


What is
Not broken?


That fucking copula


The relevance
Of specific


I keep
Deferring stuff.


The realm
Of “as”
Or “ass.”

A truly
Slippery slope.


Where are we
In this mess?


Messages are
Being sent

But are
Rarely received.


We thank Tom Beckett for participating in this Q&A.  

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