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Life is inspiration for poet Dan Beachy-Quick

For poet Dan Beachy-Quick (BA English ’95), inspiration can hit at any time: while researching the 19th century in America, reading Moby Dick for the 10th time, taking a walk or watching his newborn daughter. “The poems are part of my attempt to understand being in the world in an honest way,” he says.

Beachy-Quick is the author of four collections of poems; the most recent, This Nest, Swift Passerine (Tupelo Press, 2009), was nominated for a 2010 Colorado Book Award.

For the acclaimed poet and assistant professor at Colorado State University, poetry is a deliberate choice: “It challenges you. Much of its importance is that it’s one of the few places left in culture that makes things difficult — it asks you to think, to perceive and not to take for granted what we think about the world.”

Although Beachy-Quick’s self-described addiction to reading and writing began in high school, it was at the University of Denver that things turned serious. There, he met Professor Bin Ramke, who quickly became Beachy-Quick’s mentor. Coincidentally, it was Ramke who beat him out for the Colorado Book Award.

Ramke says his student never needed much mentoring. “Dan had such gifts that the most enlightened teaching I could offer him was to watch and wait,” he says.

Instead, Ramke gave him a job at The Denver Quarterly, DU’s literary magazine, and suggested he start submitting his poems to publications. Beachy-Quick followed the advice and published his first poem in The Paris Review. “It was wonderful … but it taught me early on that the only thing that really matters is writing the next poem,” he says. “Publication is best seen as a happy accident.”

Still, those accidents have happened steadily over the years. He’s been published in a varied list of impressive journals and anthologies, and his essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times and The Southern Review. He’s also the author of A Whaler’s Dictionary (Milkweed Editions, 2008), a collection of essays about Moby Dick.

“He was, and is, ambitious in the best possible sense — not ambitious to receive the world’s praise, but to do the world’s necessary work,” Ramke says of Beachy-Quick. “The world does not know it needs poems any longer, but we believe it does.”

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