A Whaler's Dictionary

“Inventive and frequently brilliant.” —POETRY FOUNDATION
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From one of the nation’s most dynamic and celebrated young poets, an extended dialogue with the greatest masterpiece of American literature, Moby-Dick.

Taking its inspiration—and, for that matter, its form—from Ishmael’s abandoned “Cetological Dictionary” in Moby-Dick, this extraordinary, highly original work brings meditations on myth, representation, language, nature, consciousness, and notions of spiritual quest into constantly new relations. From “Accuracy” to “Wound,” from “Adam” to “Void,” and from “Babel” to “Silence,” the cross-referential, highly associative entries make up an utterly singular work of art. For fans of Beachy-Quick’s acclaimed collections of poems, for the legions of Melville fanatics among us, and indeed for anyone who regards reading as an unconditional, encompassing obsession, A Whaler’s Dictionary is absolutely essential.

Publish Date
6 × 8 × 0.94 in
17.2 oz

Dan Beachy-Quick

Dan Beachy-Quick is a poet, essayist, and translator. His books include Variations on Dawn and Dusk, which was longlisted for the National Book Awards. His work has been supported by the Lannan, Monfort, and Guggenheim Foundations. He is a University Distinguished Teaching Scholar at Colorado State University, where he teaches in the MFA program in creative writing.

Praise and Prizes

  • “This is a rich, profound, fascinating book, the kind that widens the margins of everything we read, making room for new observations, more creative relationships all around: writer/reader, person/book, literature/life.”

    Los Angeles Times
  • “An oddly ideal work of criticism, breathing new life into Moby-Dick and showing how the novel subsists as an intricately living thing.”

    Virginia Quarterly Review
  • “Readers will not be able to skim; much of the power of these poems resides in what they suggest rather than in what they spell out. Nature is a common thread, with each poem revealing a masterly painter’s eye for visual details.”

    Library Journal
  • A Whaler’s Dictionary reminds us why poets must sometimes measure their gifts against the calculus of prose, and why criticism by poets, unlike academic arguments, sometimes produces a flame which stands the test of time.”

    Daniel Tiffany
    author of Toy Medium and Puppet Wardrobe
  • “Taking a powerful, lyrical sweep through one of the country’s most charged and versatile symbols, Dan Beachy-Quick opens Moby-Dick into yet more meanings and directions in this book-length reverie, perfectly sustained by his intricate sound play and impeccable phrasing. Intelligent, compassionate, exquisite, Beachy-Quick’s is a unique voice in contemporary poetry.”

    Cole Swensen
    author of Gravesend
  • “This is a major work on the charged relationship that can come into being between text and reader, written by one of America’s most significant young poets.”

    Lyn Hejinian
    author of Saga/Citrus and The Fatalist