The Life and #Poetry of John Beecher

Foster Dickson’s The Life and Poetry of John Beecher, 1904 – 1980 is the only published work about this writer, poet, editor, teacher, and journalist from Birmingham, Alabama who made the fight for social justice his life’s work. The book is available from Edwin Mellen Press for $109.95 in an academic library edition. Foster is available for book talks about John Beecher, his work, and his influence.

From the publisher’s description:

This work is a two-part overview to this writer, poet, journalist, activist, and sociologist. The introduction covers some background on how scholars and academics have neglected Beecher, for a variety of possible reasons. Part one consists of a biography that centers on Beecher’s working life, only briefly discussing his four marriages and only mentioning that he had four children. Part two covers a sampling of his poetry, offering explications and critical analysis that point to the conclusion that Beecher should not have been neglected or omitted from literary study to the extent that he has been. The afterword discusses the author’s experiences during his research process, including meeting Beecher’s widow Barbara. Overall, the work is intended to reintroduce John Beecher to the literary community and incite further discussion about him.

From Fred Whitehead’s introduction to the book:

In addition to the life, Dickson explicates the poetry, in the context of critical condemnation, and sometimes, of praise. It is remarkable that using the same English language, critics could produce such wildly varying judgments. Dickson carefully and diligently explores the development and promulgation of “the canon,” so devised by bourgeois scholars as to entirely exclude Beecher, and others who shared his aesthetics. Bizarrely, these adverse critics denied that Beecher had an aesthetic, or was even a poet at all.

 

Alabama’s Bicentennial Celebration

During the years 2017, 2018, and 2019, the State of Alabama will be celebrating its Bicentennial. The reason for the three-year span of time is simple: the Alabama Territory was created out of the larger Mississippi Territory on August 15, 1817, and Alabama became a state on December 14, 1819.  The celebration is being divided into topical sections: 2017 is the year for “Discovering Our Places,” 2018 will be the year for “Honoring Our People,” and 2019 will be the year for “Sharing Our Stories.”

Though I’m not directly involved in the Bicentennial, I’ve been pleased to do some on work on the fringes: having led a teacher workshop last April, having observed at the Gathering Year event in Pintlala, and last week having attended a meeting for arts educators at the Archives & History.  Later this month, I’ll be the master teacher for the Alabama Humanities Foundation SUPER Teacher institute, Sense of Place: Depictions of Alabama in History and Fiction, and in the fall, another teacher and I are planning another Gathering Year event at our school.

No matter where I’ve been or who I’ve been talking to, the same sentiment has been repeated: this Bicentennial is for all Alabamians. It isn’t about spending three years planning one big party in December 2019 for the state’s 200th birthday. It is about helping people both inside and outside the state to recognize Alabama’s value and significance, its truths (good and bad) and its legacy, its past, its present, and perhaps most importantly, its potential in the future.