A Classic Collection of Loss and Resilience: Deflection by Roberta Beary

I have about 5,000 books in my personal library, so it’s rare for me to take the time to re-read any of them. However, I keep coming back to “Deflection” by Roberta Beary, published in 2015. Back then, my curiosity piqued with its title, because the word illustrates the pattern of my life, as with the lives of most of us. We veer off course, are sideswiped, our journey  too often knotty.

With less and less time in my schedule, I can’t review books on my blog, though lately, I’ve made a couple of exceptions.

“Deflection” is a book of spare poetry that includes haibun and haiku and tanka sequences. Understatement is so beautifully executed in these poems that evoke so much emotion about subjects including: a failed marriage, caregiving and the deaths of loved ones, child abuse by a person close to the family, the author coming to terms with her son being Gay, the grandparents’ difficulty in dealing with their grandson’s homosexuality, and a relative’s drug addiction. There is a strong sense of the author’s resilience after loss when, for example, she moves forward to a second marriage.

Life’s adversities are expressed so simply, with depth and insight that touch our hearts. We very much respect Beary’s courage in writing the book. One can imagine that these poems of grief must have slapped her in the face while writing them, and will forever affect her when she re-reads them. They are so revealing about the human condition that readers will most certainly be moved.

Beary’s work is at its finest here, as her Japanese-style poetry is spare.  “Deflection” is a collection filled with  loss and the questioning of life–­ why things happen as they do.

 

The book isn’t all somber. For example, In “Summertime Blues,” a sequence, we find the single poem:

 

suddenly single–

a carpenter bee gives me

the wrong kind of buzz

 

Individual haiku from the sequence “Caretaker II” are particularly moving:

 

resurrection sky

mother somewhere between

here and there

 

day of blossoms

a nurse erases

mother’s name

 

In the latter haiku, anyone who has navigated the healthcare system with a parent or other relative comes to know the often impersonal nature or even callousness of personnel. Also, in this haiku, we are touched by the contrast between spring and the end of life.

 

Here’s a passage from the haibun “Nighthawks,” during the deathwatch of her mother:

 

i keep watch: rise and fall of out-of-breath beats. too soon it

comes. ebb tide.

 

autumn coolness enters a hand long held in mine

 

After her mother’s death, Beary expresses feeling off-balance in the title poem “Deflection,” another sequence:

 

tai-chi rain

all my weight on

the wrong foot

 

In dealing with child abuse, below is a passage from “Irish Twins,” with its powerful curt lines that skillfully illustrate Beary’s fear of abuse by a person close to the family. As a child, she escapes to an imaginary world during the episodes. (Although the poem ends with a haiku, the main passage below strikes the reader stylistically as being free verse.)

 

I know he is there.

I feel his weight.

Never on my side.

Always on the side she sleeps.

When the bedsprings sing their sad song

I fly away.

 

In “The Offer,” a haibun, she relives her visit later in life with the abuser who is now demented and helpless. It seems she arrives at his house to offer help, trying to put what happened in childhood behind her. However, she is unable to follow through:

 

. . .He needs a shave. He needs a haircut, He needs a

wash. This man who used to scare me to death.

 

Unable to handle his ravings, she departs in her car:

 

rear-mirror the stunted pine’s red robin

 

In the haiku sequence ,“Last Rites,” one would guess that she is reliving her father’s death. This is the sequence’s final poem:

 

day of the obit

inside his wallet

me at eleven

 

 

Further, she writes the haibun, “Memorare,” telling of her prayers for either a drug-addicted relative or someone close to her. A recounting of her recitation to the Virgin Mary for intercession on this person’s behalf, she wonders if prayers will be answered. She intersperses passages from the translated prayer that Catholics recite by rote in parochial school, with stream of consciousness, remembering what children were told to do by nuns to live an immaculate life:

 

. . . that never was it known that anyone who fled

to thy protection implored thy help or sought

thy intercession was left unaided patent leather

shoes are not allowed because boys must be

kept free from temptation . . .

 

 

meth addict

the baby face

in my wallet

 

 

She skillfully captures this recitation without punctuation, not only for the effect of stream of consciousness, but to illustrate how parochial school children often pray, in a rambling way,  without fully understanding the words.

 

Beary completes her collection trying to come to terms with yet another loss in the haibun “What Remains.” This focuses on someone else’s loss of a son, perhaps that of a sibling she was estranged from. She is regretful of the young person who drives carelessly and dies. She is haunted by what she was told transpired:

A police car sets its revolving light on a mother’s house. The shadow of two men appears.

The front door opens. One man

is a policeman. This is where the story ends. The other man is a

priest. This is where the story begins.

 

We praise Beary for having the courage to write this book that ultimately makes us feel less alone in life as a fellow traveler through adversity. It is a highly recommended work of art. Further, its stunning book cover is the creation of Kevin Beary, her brother.

 

Roberta Beary has also authored “The Unworn Necklace,” a William Carlos Williams finalist by the Poetry Society of America, 2008. She has been a haiku and haibun editor of numerous journals and books, and a poetry contest judge, in addition to having won several international poetry awards. Beary speaks worldwide and is a workshop leader on the art of Japanese-style poetry. Currently, she lives in Ireland. Her website is www.robertabeary.com

To contact Beary, you may email her at robertabearywriting@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. I recently received an Official Commendation from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of five non-fiction books: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; and Your Original Personal Ad. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won forty-seven poetry awards, writing twelve poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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17 Responses to A Classic Collection of Loss and Resilience: Deflection by Roberta Beary

  1. MaryJo says:

    Roberta’s book is everything you speak of–I read it again and again. Thank you, Charlotte for your wonderful review.

  2. Paul Beech says:

    Great review, Charlotte. I admire Roberta for the way she follows her own star in haiku, bravely, with exquisite word-craft, in defiance of convention. And knowing something of the knottiness of life myself, I should love a copy of her ‘Deflection’.

    Have a good Sunday.

    Paul

  3. autumn coolness enters a hand long held in mine

    This haiku really got to me. Thanks for bringing it forward with highly deserved attention for Roberta Beary’s “Deflection”.

    Donna Fleischer

  4. haikutec says:

    I got the collection when it was released, as you never know when certain books sell out fast!

    A great post here, Charlotte.

    I’m even more chuffed about having breakfast with Roberta recently, with the gorgeous Frank, and my wife, at Chippenham’s wonderful Irish cafe Jollys!

    I’m pretty sure I bought it direct from the publishers rather than from ‘ahem’ a certain online place:
    https://www.accents-publishing.com/blog/our-books/deflection/

    And this from Grace Cavalieri no less!!!!!!!
    “Roberta Beary’s poetry is animated with principles of Haiku, illustrative of the form but reliant on other traditions. Her work shows that a gifted poet can assert all manner of styles within a poem, sharing interests of each to give us a new breed.”

    And as President, United Haiku and Tanka Society, I’m delighted that Barbara Snow reviewed the book:
    “This sliver of a volume packs a walloping punch beyond just the poetry shelves; I would also bring it to the attention of grief counselors.”
    https://www.accents-publishing.com/blog/2016/01/25/cattails-reviews-deflection/

    warm regards,

    Alan Summers
    Call of the Page

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