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Scott Beal unveils 'American Spring,' a poem about hope in the midst of despair

Apr 22, 2015

Scott Beal serves as writer-in-the-schools for Dzanc Books in Ann Arbor. He teaches in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan.

As part of our series Poetically SpeakingScott Beal brings us “American Spring,” his brand-new poem that explores the current tensions surrounding police violence in America.

“I've seen many poets doing beautiful and necessary work in immediate response and resistance to contemporary events (for example, through Rattle magazine's wonderful Poets Respond series), and of all the poems I considered sending, this one felt the most urgent," writes Beal.

Beal’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other journals, and have received awards including a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His first full-length collection, Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems (Dzanc Books) came out November 2014. 

This poem, "American Spring," announces its subject in the first line by asking, “What answer have we for despair today?”

“It meditates on the possibilities of finding hope in the face of hopelessness. While we associate spring with renewal and growth, relentless police violence against black and brown people continues in America. Such a system should be intolerable for a nation with a conscience, but appears intractable when we reflexively criminalize blackness and valorize police power.”

Beal explains, “When a friend told me recently about blue-capped acorns scattered in a section of Golden Gate Park, I became enamored with the idea of such lovely and surprising things growing in unexpected places."

But, after not being able to confirm the existence of such blue acorns he says, "I want to have faith in such beauty emerging, just as I want to have faith in the possibility of resistance to racist police violence – but such faith inevitably has to confront doubt. The poem attempts to weigh that hope against that doubt, without coming to tidy conclusions.”

On the title of the poem, Beal says, "I hope it contains an echo of the 'Arab Spring,' which showed both the possibilities and limitations of mass resistance to oppressive regimes, and thus raises a question about what change we might make possible here."

    

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