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Flapper Press Poetry Café Presents a Conversation with Abstract Expressionist Abrahm T. Beezley

By Annie Newcomer:


The Flapper Press Poetry Café is honored to feature the work from poets from all over the globe. This week, we present the work of poet and artist Abrahm T. Beezley.


Abrahm T. Beezley

Abrahm T. Beezley holds a master’s in architecture from Kansas State University, 2009. His three children, Vaughn Michael, Brecht Abrahm, and Grier Sophie Beezley, live in Atlanta, Georgia, with their mother. Now living in Overland Park, Kansas, he is re-married to Megan Beezley (Vaeth) and are happily expecting a little girl in August. Megan has always been a buttress of support in his artistic exploration. With one foot in the daily grind and one foot out, Abrahm views the world through a poetic lens. The result defines the process of his existence through visual and written forms. Abstracting reality into these expressive forms, Abrahm conceals his sensitivity to our psychodynamic perspectives of the Id/ego. He is most concerned with what we are afraid to express for fear of ridicule and abandonment, claiming that “we are all actors”, that build monumental imagery serving self-promotion, power, and our hard-wired desire for control. A multi-disciplinary artist, Abrahm allegorically employs symbols within his work to tell the story of humanity.


Please meet Abrahm T. Beezley!


 

Annie Newcomer: Abe, welcome to the Flapper Press Poetry Café. What might you say is your raison d'être as a poet and as an artist? 


Abrahm T. Beezley: More than ever, I am aware of how little time I have left to express my gifts to the world. I am not anxious of this but manage it the best I can without it becoming overwhelming. 


Art/research on the U.S.-Mexico border has began to consume me daily, committing myself to as much as I can handle, within the bounds of reason. Sometimes I make memos in my journal to my children of what I am trying to accomplish in hopes that one day they will understand. The best I can do as an artist and a father is to help explain the “why.” 


AN: Please share a little about your background. 


ATB: I was born on February 27, 1977, in Rolla, Missouri, and am an only child to Thomas and Gwena Beezley, Saint James, Missouri. We lived in the heart of rural America, and my childhood was one where I was nurtured and loved. Raised with a stout work ethic from my family's horticulture business, I developed my love for the natural world, nurtured in advocacy. In my late teens, I recognized an ability to see and read individual behaviors, even my own, in which I deployed artistic means to represent relationships between objectivity.

While I recognize that my work for some may be initially challenging to understand, I am still driven to continue to refine my intuitive ability that represents the body of work that I will share with you today. 


AN: Please explain how the concept of creating manifests in you.


ATB: Creating is a natural, and required, daily activity for me, Annie. It allows me to work through the details of my life; what I see and experience as I understand the fundamental but complex nature of our being. While the motive of humanity has remained unchanged, the advent and creation of tools has increased the rate of our progress. And as technology advances, so does our opportunity for advancement in the name of ambition.


Artists remind us of who we are, shouldering the responsibility of challenging our perceptions while providing opportunity for growth and awareness of ourselves as a species.

AN: Describe each of your talents that you employ in your work: painting, photography, sculpture, and poetry.


ATB: If I may, I would like to refer to these “talents” as elements, where each communicates with each other and one could not exist without the other. Balance exists between each of them and, intuitively, I recognize when each element is calling for attention. They are woven together where the whole is greater than the sum of parts. A simple mathematical equation in architecture summarizes this relationship; 1 + 1 = 3, where two overlapping circles create a third residual space.


Writing is the process of immediate reflection of a particular situation. The execution of a poem can be quick, although complex topics may take longer to finish. There is a prophetic phrase, “words are worth their weight,” [that] I remind myself of when writing. Composing under this rigor holds me accountable to answer succinctly with intention.


Poetry is an extension of my being, so I use metaphors to refine concepts into tangible form.

Journaling is a daily practice for me and is compiled within the “notes” app on my phone; always available, no matter my location. I occasionally write in a journal, but only on the weekends, as my schedule permits use of this analog format. I enjoy writing, though I am not formally trained. I continue to write and challenge myself to learn new forms of poetry. Recently, Annie, you introduced me to haiku, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the profound simplicity it requires.


Photography is closely related to poetry, where the objective is to detail a moment. Like poetry, what you point your camera at is extremely important to the gravity and success of your message. I much prefer the use of analog (film) photography, learning the medium over many years, but recently have transitioned toward digital format. My desire had always propelled me to work with analog film photography purely because of aesthetic. Film has such visceral beauty linked to each image due to the sensitivity of film when exposed to light. Technology has transformed the medium into what it is today and what will remain and represents an opportunity for growth. 


Painting and sculpture require more investment than any other medium I work with. For painting, I usually test ideas on the iPhone using the Freeform app and then move to paper. This method is lo-fi with minimal impact on the pocketbook. Megan is supremely supportive, allowing me to engage frequently in the act of painting. [I am] grateful of her support and understanding the time it takes to produce a cohesive body of work. Currently, I am painting on thick paper. Current works are 18” x 24”. Paper is cheap, easier to store, and offers an affordable price point to consumers. 


Shipping works on paper has lower freight costs and can be rolled in a sturdy tube. Larger works on canvas are extremely fun but add layers of complexity in the name of space. I primarily work in acrylic paint and always have, but two days ago, after several trials, I used washable oil block-printing ink to achieve a painted surface on a large black-and-white gelatin print. Of course, it took forever to dry, seven days in fact, but good things come to those who wait. Not achieving exactly the visual quality I desired, I also changed up the use of acrylic paint by experimentation with correction tape. Absolutely, fascinating how the simple change revealed another dimension of expressive metaphor. Smiling ear to ear, this discovery will consume the next few months of my life. How exciting, right?


Remember, we were born to explore. Let humility escort your hubris along the way of discovery and share what you have found with the world.

Discovery in sculpture is slower to manifest. It takes time to construct two-dimensional concepts into three-dimensional reality, and there is more to consider with sculpture. Connections are extremely important, as are materiality, as these nuances speak metaphysically to our existence. I have worked with marble and fabric to convey concepts of vanity, migration, and race, but for the last year I have been developing a program of stacked paper, welded together by water, weighted to form silent volumes that absorb communication. What would normally have text are instead blank letters to be or that could have been. A concept relating to our inability to communicate with each other face to face, our transmissions today have become blank, silent memos, and the only hope to remind us of our connection to one another is real, tangible, and present.


My art, painting, and sculpture is influenced by Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, and Donald Judd, regarded as abstract expressionists in minimalism. In painting, I do not break rules but maintain geometric rigor, mathematics, and a ruled grid. The grid is extremely important to the work, representing measure and control. As an environmentalist, I lean towards photographer Robert Adams. Our work is similar. Quiet. Pensive.


AN: Is there one among these four "elements" that is your "favorite child," so to speak, and why?


ATB: All are my favorites, and I could not live without any of them. They are intimately linked, and their success is dependent upon their independence. When I was young, I could claim a favorite, but today my work would not exist without all of them. If the work is the keystone of an arch, then these gifts are the coins that support it.


AN: You describe yourself as an Abstract Expressionist. Please explain this description.


ATB: My work is allegorical, whether in reference to painting, writing, or any other medium and is a personal expression of the life that we live, both physically and metaphysically. As an abstract expressionist, personification aligns well to represent abstraction of formal relationships in material objects, concepts, or ideologies, succinctly processing complex patterns into a minimal form. For example, the paper or canvas I paint on is of measurable size and dimension with strict limitation. This limitation represents the control of a known object. Measure is another limitation, whereas it can appease but cannot satisfy. And I dare not exemplify knowing that a singular definition cannot bring measure to the complexity and weight the grid represents when laid upon this earth. A concept like this is as abstract as you allow it to be. The work is only a vehicle.


AN: How does this same idea apply when writing your poetry?


ATB: The style of my writing is closely related. Abstraction as a medium can help me to express topics that are challenging to talk about. Many of my poems surround insecurity, desire, regret, and death to name a few, which are nothing we are too proud or willing to talk about. Other cultures have no issues with these topics, but here in the States, even the mention of them chases away any hope of vulnerability with each other. I find it easier to cloak these topics in abstraction, so they are easier to swallow. The tricky thing is to distinguish poetic language from my daily work as a product manager. I am certainly more comfortable speaking in metaphor, yet this rarely gets me anywhere with peers who require definitive, data-driven results. In a way I am constantly honing my skillset to establish succinct ways to communicate in both pursuits. 


AN: Which poets, who may be familiar to our readers, are examples of abstract expressionists?


ATB: Rainer Maria Rilke is an abstract expressionist who I align with most, but I am also fond of Mary Oliver's figurative language, and there are similarities there too! May sound crazy, but it is difficult for me to read poetry. Far easier to create it. Jack Kerouac has a special place in my heart, as does Teju Cole, and so many others. Typically, I am both reading and listening to multiple books at once.


AN: If I were to ask you, “Which is the most important word in a poem?,” what might you answer?


ATB: None are singularly more important. Each word within a poem supports one another. Subjectively, they could be understood as individual, I guess, but my aim is to create an architectural body with each poem written. Some poems are short, yes, and I often refer to each as a moment in time, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Word selection is particularly important to me, and I can ruminate on the selection extensively. In the poem “With Rigid Precision,” word selection revealed a rhythm of alternating tempo consisting of two poems stitched into one. 


AN: What future plans do you hold in your heart for your poetry?


ATB: Oh wow, great question, Annie! Well, in 2021, I self-published a small book of poems titled DAM (Death as a Mirror), which was part of the Sager Reeves Gallery in Columbia, Missouri. DAM represented what I considered my "turning point” or shift in perception of myself in the world. After the exhibit, I no longer hid behind the moniker "Thomas Wuf" but returned to my birth name Abrahm. A link to the book DAM can be found here. It was the most complete reference to the work I now pursue, combining elements of written form, photography, sculpture, and painting to express this realization. In short, I welcome the opportunity to publish again, and I plan to do so as the work continues. I am exploring local venues to show current works on paper, and the silent memos that will be combined with the published poetry and shared in a gallery exhibit in Kansas City. But I am patient. 


AN: Abe, I must confess that before our conversation, I hadn't been informed on abstract expressionism with regards to poetry, and I found our interview fascinating. Thank you for your willingness to get me up to speed through our flurry of email exchanges and meeting at the local library to prepare for this interview. While it’s time now to share three of your poems and their backstories, please know that you have an open invitation to return and share more on your work in our ACT TWO initiative.


ATB: Thank you, Annie, and please accept my deepest gratitude to Flapper Press and your readers. Trust that I accept yours and Elizabeth's advocacy with the respect and responsibility it so deserves. I look forward to sharing more of my work in ACT TWO!


 

San Francisco Fog - Photo by Abrahm Beezley

Part One.


Late, when heavy gauge gauze, hang low with intimidation,

and baked brown turns cool blue, lay dying.

The distant mass of diminution proclaims nothing, but cut out shapes,

amongst a backdrop of anticipation.

Reveal a bounty between wisps of now glistening silver hair.

Chilled and tired, they lay shouldered against obsidian.

A great palisade before me; beyond the blacker, yet blacker, gulf of understanding.

Patiently calling, while woven fingers contain my frame, laboring for brief

moments of ecstasy.

Culminating into an entropic stillness.

Realities cache, born again.

The weight of ownership; distributed into silent memos.

Quick not to disturb, complete satisfaction.


 

Balanced between a dream and reality is the poem "Part One." Expressing selfish ambition and dire realization of defeat, "Part One" is the soft, quiet recoiling of our hubris, dissolving the fantasy placed on the shelf of achievement.


Part One

 

Sticks - Photo by Abrahm Beezley

p


Within a color-blind field, field of heat.

Shimmering a blasted, baking, rising scene.

Perched above, a circling team of clockwork rings.

Dancing, twirling, lifting; higher still.

Awaiting charge.

A sonic trill.

Falling faster, yet faster heavy feather.

Bending, weaving, disappearing silent, soaring acrobats.

Focused on diving toward thee.

Calling, last call the say, can you hear me? Sting, they rip and shred the meat.

My poor body bruised and bloody, host in a sea of ink, see.

Memory motion picture, barely breathing, deaf take a seat.

While ribbons of color shimmering a blasted, baking, rising scene.

Time passes, dust to dust.

This life blinding within a color-blind field, field of heat.


 

A ring of ravens above us wave and open the vulnerabilities of our humanity, in the poem “P.” and the extenuating life of "Part One," exposing a wider landscape into our finite existence. A projection of what we all face in the end when the light becomes blinding toward collapse, when all unknowns become sewn into a smile of satisfaction.


P

 

Stone Buttress - Photo by Abrahm Beezley

Begin the End.

__________________________

Obsidian mass weeping, shining.

Gaping wide valley. Cuneiform result.

Torrential sound. Run, red blood; run, drain.

Cold stone, calling bird. Boxer bark.

Bitter rose. Oak.

Glassy lake; copper cover. Blinding zenith; eyes wide up.

A smile, a glance; a seated happy dance.

Scream rolling from the rail of a pink rim.

The day that Begin the End.


 

The poem “Begin the End” recalls familiar, tangible symbolism we recognize as life and death. The body of the poem is organized to be read forward or backward, demanding the concentration of the reader to formalize order of diminutive prose. "Begin the End" is one of the most experimentally ambitious representations of abstract expressionism.


Begin the End

 

Annie Newcomer

Annie Klier Newcomer founded a not-for-profit, Kansas City Spirit, that served children in metropolitan Kansas for a decade. Annie volunteers in chess and poetry after-school programs in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her husband, David, and the staff of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are working to develop The Emily Dickinson Garden in hopes of bringing art and poetry educational programs to their community. Annie helms the Flapper Press Poetry Café—dedicated to celebrating poets from around the world and to encouraging everyone to both read and write poetry!


If you enjoyed this Flash Poet interview, we invite you to explore more here! 



Presenting a wide range of poetry with a mission to promote a love and understanding of poetry for all. We welcome submissions for compelling poetry and look forward to publishing and supporting your creative endeavors. Submissions may also be considered for the Pushcart Prize. Please review our Guidelines before submitting!


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