Larry Beckett’s poetry ranges from brief lyrics and songs to blank sonnets and 100-page narrative works. Out of the traditions of the language, he invents bold forms appropriate to his subjects.
His long poems are part of a sequence in progress called American Cycle, inspired by our folklore and past. Its styles are deeply connected to American speech, whether it’s the rough colloquialisms of Paul Bunyan, the bare oratory of Chief Joseph, the circus ballyhoo of P. T. Barnum, the aviation jargon of Amelia Earhart, the backwoods dialect of Blue Ridge, the Spanish words loaned from Old California; U. S. Rivers braids eyewitness history, oral legends, and old folk songs; Wyatt Earp is next. The Cycle’s themes are love, local mythology, history, memory, accomplishment, time.
In Songs and Sonnets, published by Rainy Day Women Press, his sonnets and madrigals center on marriage in our time; these poems trace love day-to-day, with music and intensity.
His translations of the T’ang dynasty Chinese poet Li Po are rendered in contemporary American images; those of Li Shang-yin are more private and mysterious.
The Way of Rain, guided by Chinese scholarship, is a reconstruction of the lost order of the Tao Te Ching; The Logos recovers the lost scroll of Heraclitus.
His translation of Goethe’s late cycle East-West Divan is only the fourth complete translation into English.
The Classics is a new canon of world literature, with essays on its craft.
Beat Poetry, published by Beatdom Books, is on the lights of the San Francisco Renaissance, reconsidered as literature.
He thinks of his poems as texts for performance, and they have been recorded. A CD of a reading of his first 32 sonnets is included in the hardbound edition of Songs and Sonnets.