The Centrifugal Eye
August 2008 - Review: Cutts
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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
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 it.”

        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 place.”


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!

"Night Owl" - D.J. Bryant 2008

Karla Linn Merrifield's poetry has appeared publications such as CALYX, Earth's Daughters, Poetica, Off the Coast, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline; on line in Elsewhere (forthcoming), New Works Review, The Centrifugal Eye and Elegant Thorn Review, and in several anthologies. She is the author of Godwit: Poems of Canada and Midst, and edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, from FootHills Publishing. She is poetry editor of Sea Stories (, was guest editor for The Centrifugal Eye's Autumn 2007 issue, and held her first one-woman photographic-poetry exhibit (with accompanying chapbook) in October for the 3rd annual RochesterInk Poetry in Fusion Festival (Rochester, NY). She teaches writing part-time at Writers & Books (Rochester, NY) and each fall at SUNY College at Brockport (NY), traveling widely the rest of the year, most recently to Antarctica. Visit her blog, "Vagabond Poet."

Karla is the Quarterly Review Columnist for and a regular contributor to
The Centrifugal Eye

Contact Karla

“How deep the silence, yet how loud the praise!
But are they silent all? or is there not
A tongue in ev’ry star that talks with man,
And wooes him to be wise? nor wooes in vain:
This dead of midnight is the noon of thought,
And wisdom mounts her zenith with the stars.”

                            ~Anna Letitia Barbauld, from A Summer Evening's Meditation


Contemporary Poetry with an Eye Towards Resistance

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