Night Is a Rare Place And Other Poems
by Beau Cutts, 2005
Wilds of Fannin County Press
28946 Morganton Highway
Suches, Georgia 30572
Chapbook / 44 Pages
$14.50 US +$2.50 s&h
Tao of Reading Poetry
OUT-look: a quarterly review column
by Karla Linn Merrifield
Seeking the “Hollow of Night”
Turn on the lamp. Lower the blinds. Curl up and put yourself in the hands of Beau Cutts with his
Night Is a Rare Place And Other Poems. ***
I’ve done it myself many times; it’s a favorite book. And many times over it has enchanted
and challenged me, as I think it will you.
But first the story-behind-the-book.
A journey toward “constellations’ schemes” and beyond
My path to reading Rare Place began before the book was published. Colleague and friend
Beau Cutts had been emailing many of his poems to me, parceling them out over the months like Godiva chocolates so I could
savor them. At the end of two years in spring 2005, I had accumulated a generous, cohesive body of his work and told him I
would like to teach his poems, come fall and the start of the semester. Would that be okay with him?
I pictured handing out to my students a simple photocopied sheaf, but Cutts envisioned a book,
professionally bound and printed, complete with cover art. He made it happen and, a few months later, took his first order
for Night Is a Rare Place for my Freshman Composition 112 section at the State University of New York College at Brockport.
Voilą: the first 26 were sold.
The first edition, a nicely saddle-stitched affair with an intriguing cover designed by the poet,
proved to be a valuable text to teach my students better writing and a guidebook on how to be better citizens of the Earth,
one of the ancillary goals on my freshman comp syllabus.
Invariably, every student found at least one poem in Cutts’ collection of 20 that hit home
for them. Not bad.
For many of them, it was the title poem that knocked their socks off with its power. For some
that was a practical power. Wrote one young man, “Beau Cutts taught me that ending a poem with a question keeps the
reader thinking and makes them read the poem over another time. Even though he answered his question, it makes you wonder
if there could be another answer.” Then he quoted the poem’s closing lines:
But what could we see if we could see with-
out the deflection of our ancient fathers’ dreams, without
constellations’ schemes to ease our needless fears while
visiting night: a small rare place, a pointy cone,
hollow of night.
For others, the power of “Night Is a Rare Place” was more profound: “I feel
that the author really gets you thinking about everything you have ever been told or taught….It is truly captivating.”
Another student confessed: “The poem makes me feel so small.”
My kids — a hundred of them so far — dug Beau Cutts. They “got it.” He’d
made them think. Thus, one more example: About the nature poem “Greater Magic,” one student wrote, “This
poem . . . teaches us to look deeper than the external beauty. Don't just look at the butterfly, but look at the larva that's
waiting to be a butterfly.”
Eddies in language
Night Is a Rare Place is currently in its fourth edition (with some editorial changes in
the poems and now handsomely perfect-bound). The book has come a long way since it was first issued in 2005 and Beau has gathered
wider and wider acclaim.
In 2006, he was named Georgia Poet of the Year (for independently published poetry), no small
feat in a state rich in poets, a state that cultivates its poets and has even named the state’s most popular lake and
an impressive new suspension bridge after its most famous poet, Sydney Lanier.
In addition, Kay Day of Creative Writer US, in her review of Night Is a Rare Place,
notes, “Beau Cutts might best be summed up in a single word: visionary. That’s what most poets hope for. He achieves
Robert Lamb, who teaches creative writing at the University of South Carolina, says Cutts’s
poem “Infinite Clock” has “the mystical power of memory.”
Even perfect strangers have fallen under the spell of Night Is a Rare Place. Beau Cutts
reported to me he was deeply touched by a letter from a woman he'd never met. Someone had given her a copy of his book. In
her letter to Cutts, she complimented him, saying: "Your work reminds me of that of Carl Sandburg;" adding: "Bless you for
your environmental concerns, and for speaking out."
And a year ago, when I first reviewed the book for the Just Poets newsletter (Rochester,
NY), I targeted his poem, “The Etowah,” noting: “Like haiku poet Matsuo Basho, Cutts celebrates the beauty
he found . . . on a 3-day canoeing expedition on the Etowah River. ‘The Etowah,’ sprawling across 7 pages, is
the master poem in Rare Place. ‘The poem flows just like a river,’ one of my students observed. It does.
The story rushes and boils, sweeps and eddies in language often as sparse and arresting as Basho’s:
‘…migrants crack open
our first sleep upon a sandy beach,
Canada geese, urgently braying
and mis-honking in raspy passion,…’”
Vivid calls to action
A visionary. A poet of mystical power. A masterful writer. Cutts is all that, and a political
poet as well.
Writer and Orion magazine columnist Rebecca Solnit writes in a recent issue: “Ideas
matter.” She elaborates:
Action and contemplation can be parts of the
same life. The latter gives us the depth, the ethics,
the imagination, and the understanding to become
active, to work for what we believe. And action
brings our contemplative work to life, gives it
purpose and meaning. [Emphasis mine.]
Night Is a Rare Place is a book of purpose and meaning. Cutts means for us to take action
on behalf of the Earth.
In “Onward,” his introduction to the poems, Cutts has contemplated the essential problem
we humans face today:
Too many people! The human population has
more than doubled during my lifetime and perhaps
yours. The impact is very difficult to understand.
No one before us has ever had such change to
experience, to assess.
Do you know of any major environmental problem
not caused by human overpopulation? I don’t. The
problem is us.
The idea of overpopulation matters. And Cutts challenges his readers to take action. He wants
us to do two things in particular.
First, he urges, “Help elect Democrats running for the jobs of mayor, governor, U.S. president.
Vote for Democrats seeking seats on city councils, county boards of supervisors or commissioners, state legislatures, the
U.S. House and Senate.”
Why this voting-booth rallying cry? Because, he says, “Democratic office holders are far
more likely than Republicans to advance policies for cleaner air and water, for protecting flora and fauna against human greed,
for environmental concerns generally.” If you’re not a U.S. citizen, chances are there’s a comparable party
split along environmental lines in your home country. Cutts asks that you vote accordingly because: “The quality of
life for your children, grandchildren, and their kids depends on political priorities established now.”
Second, Cutts has made the leap from contemplation to action — and asks his readers to follow
suit — with this invitation: “Please let me learn your thoughts on how Homo sapiens sapiens can continue
to succeed; send your comments by email.” He means it. When was the last time you cracked open a new book of poetry and found the poet inviting you to an
exchange of ideas that matter?
A place under the stars
Beau Cutts will touch your mind with his ideas and your heart with his passion for the night,
the sea, the Earth — and with his compassion for our species.
You couldn’t have an abler companion in the wee hours. Not only is Cutts a storied poet,
he’s also an oceanic mariner with salty tales to tell of his adventures at sea under the stars, and with a sailor’s
grasp of the dark vast heavens above. You’ll get to sail with him in “The Dawn Watch” and “Why?”
You’ll feel in your body the “rising and falling of the tall ship onward” and join the poet in his “surge
with joy” to be a’sea through the power of his words.
In reading the title poem, like my students, you will become a denizen of the universe, who tries
to understand more than merely seeing “stars as small holes / in the ceiling of our tent.” You will pay a visit
to night, “a small / rare place, a pointy cone, hollow of light.”
Quite often Cutts’s poems envelop you in wonder. In “Earthskin” you can marvel
at the fragility of our planet where human life — all life, including cockroaches, bonobos and palm trees — is
protected by “the thinness of Earthskin,” our miraculous “curvature of life” that is a mere “three
miles thin.” And, again, in “Love’s Idea,” the poet reminds us to see ourselves as “partners
with other primates and/ among gigantic blue whales.” We are wondrous mammals all.
The path into the darkness — and light — of Night Is a Rare Place is a path
to wisdom and a way to action, with stretches of humor and warmth along the way. The poet welcomes you home to “a rare
Column Editor’s Note:
What’s your story behind a book that you’ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell
me. Just complete our Reader Survey. From your stories I’ll select the books and I’ll review them for The Centrifugal Eye for all our readers
in future issues. Give me something new to rave about!