Rhonda McClam is a master level educator, Edtech curriculum consultant and Documentarian who struggled to overcome adversity in her childhood. Rhonda is a member of the Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society. When she is not teaching, she is always looking for something new to learn or a new place to travel.


Trigger Warning

Gary Beck’s book of poetry, “Expectations,” is an echo into the pits of American psyche. It vibrates within the recesses of my mind, stirring up thoughts and opinions that I do not give much attention, unless I am discussing it with someone I trust and who challenges my worldview. I have an appreciation for the way Beck’s poetry varies in range. His best poems are interconnected by themes, imagery, and with, at times, clever rhymes and inventive free verses. In “Two Visions” Beck wrote:

“I, Apathy.
Who suffers in the world,
suffers for me,
but I forget and watch TV.”

This resonates with me on another level – television is a representation of how some can distract themselves from reality and not be active participants in the change they want to see in the world. In its entirety, Beck’s poetry is a dichotomy of perspective. There is a poem from a soldier’s perspective that came to my mind when I read another poem towards the end of the book about a warrior. After reflecting, I questioned are they not one in the same? Or are people forgetting to think about their experiences and its impact.

Another poem that spoke to me was his introspect into the mind of a young person filled with hope, zest and possibilities. This view is challenged by the old man’s perspective, it demonstrates a duality. Other comparisons that I have observed include a life of struggle and strife versus experiencing intense joy and submitting to lustful desires. I had more than a few reality checks such as making me think about how I feel today about the “American dream,” about what I am doing to make things progress. I appreciate the interconnect between earlier and later poems. Beck is not afraid to use multiple perspectives to shed light on issues that we as a society have dealt with historically, and he also explores issues that have somehow renewed themselves.

One of Beck’s poems is like a reaction to Childish Gambino’s  “This is America,” it reads:

“Never wonder why
the few resist deceptions,
reject false prophets,
deny available temptations,
cars, clothes, culture, delusions,
subsistence crusts for millions.”

In “I Sing My Land: America,” Beck wrote:

“Gape-mouthed tourist
of glass and concrete crypts
where millions swim together in ambition…
and black men hated by shotguns.”

Beck’s poems are very relevant, and many grab my attention! “Renaissance” is another one of my favorites. Overall, I like Expectations because Beck is deep, challenges me mentally and emotionally! Be prepared to raise your eyebrows at points and cackle out loud at other poems. Reading a poem by Gary Beck is insightful, humorous and unsettling because he makes me think so deeply.

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