Of Silence and Song
Midway through the journey of his life, Dan Beachy-Quick found himself without a path, unsure how to live well. Of Silence and Song follows him through the forest of his experience, on a classical search for meaning in the world and in his particular, quiet life.
In essays, fragments, marginalia, images, travel writing, and poetry, Beachy-Quick traces relationships and the identities through which he sees the world. As father and husband. As teacher and student. As citizen and scholar. And as poet and reader, wondering at the potential and limits of literature, and guided by his studies in ancient Greek.
Of Silence and Song finds its inferno—and its paradise—in moments both historically vast and nakedly intimate. Our world’s disappearing bees, James Eagan Holmes, Columbine, and the persistent, unforgivable crime of slavery—these are the circles of hell Beachy-Quick wanders, but cannot escape. And yet he encounters redemption in the art of Marcel Duchamp, the pressed flowers in Emily Dickinson’s Bible, and long walks with his youngest daughter, Iris. “The litany in hell is weeping, weeping,” he writes, “but there are other litanies.”
Curious, earnest, and masterful, Of Silence and Song is an unforgettable exploration of the human soul.
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Praise and Prizes
“‘I had a question,’ reflects Dan Beachy-Quick toward the end of his resonant volume, Of Silence and Song, ‘but I didn’t know what it was.’ Both silence and song, this anechoic orchestral work shows us, make of our world an open question. Like John Cage—who once entered a sound-proof chamber only to find it pulsing with the noise of his own circulatory system—Beachy-Quick, too, hears the rumble of blood in our most silent places. Where does the music come from? ‘I want to say our heart,’ ventures this researcher into disquiet, ‘though I know the grammar is absurd.’”
“Responding to the silence from which poetry arises, Dan Beachy-Quick is not afraid to follow the call of thought, wherever it may lead. This book situates itself beyond the noise of the times.”
“It’s an exciting thing when a writer of real originality and scope discovers a form that both focuses and liberates his gift. Dan Beachy-Quick is such a writer, and Of Silence and Song is such a book. One doesn’t think to use the word ‘ennobling’ of many works of contemporary art, but this one is.”
“You read here that, etymologically, ‘consider’ means ‘to examine the stars. To draw the connections between the distant points.’ If that is so, then Of Silence and Song is a clear night sky full of constellations. From the beanfields that Pythagoras would not enter to the verses of her Bible that Dickinson cut out, from his daughter Iris’s fear of the dark to the ‘tenth Muse seldom mentioned,’ from here to heliopause, Dan Beachy-Quick crosses great expanses in this book-length, acutely human consideration, flickering in the hunch that ‘question and answer are the same thing—one . . . just the disappearance of the other.’”