The work itself is what matters, according to poet David Beaudouin. "Some poets use their poems like credit cards," he says. They're always trying to build their reputations. "But it really doesn't matter if you have a lot of books out. The poem itself is important."
A Baltimore poet, editor and teacher, Mr. Beaudouin has long been a force in the publishing world. He will read his poetry tomorrow at the Halcyon Gallery at 8 p.m.
He's been in the writing business a long time, he says from his home in Charles Village. His experience ranges from nurturing writers to publishing them to creating his own work. In addition to serving on the Mayor's Committee on Arts and Culture, and helping to create the Artscape literary awards, Mr. Beaudouin has taught creative writing at several area universities.
He is also founding editor of Tropos Press Inc., which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, and he co-founded The Pearl, which City Paper named the best literary journal in Baltimore. Currently, he is publishing a series of chapbooks featuring the best emerging talents from Baltimore's spoken-arts poetry scene.
Besides being a force in Baltimore's publishing world, Mr.
Beaudouin has written seven books of poetry and edited (along with poets Michael Weaver and James Taylor) "Gathering Voices," an anthology of Baltimore poets. "Human Nature," Mr. Beaudouin's newest book, a collaboration with noted photographer Stephen Spartana, is to be published this fall.
Mr. Beaudouin has been writing poetry seriously since he was 14. He was inspired by his grandfather, a man with a large library and a love of books. Mr. Beaudouin's grandfather was friends with H. L. Mencken, who would visit the family in their home on St. Paul Street. A lawyer and an avid reader of poetry, especially Milton, he passed his love of literature on to young David.
Later, while majoring in medieval English literature at Washington College, Mr. Beaudouin became friends with several visual artists who brought him into contact with work by postmodern poets such as Frank O'Hara, Charles Olson and Ted Berrigan, who greatly influenced his style.
Visual arts have worked their way into Mr. Beaudouin's writing. His poems, which he describes as his conversation with the world, "like picking up a telephone," are packed with images. Taking pictures of contemporary life -- from an Independence Day parade to a baseball game -- his poems use words the way a photographer uses film.
The poem "Book Report," for example, describes a book of poems, ultimately comparing the reading of poetry to driving a car: " . . . it is your hands that are on the wheel of that stolen red Cadillac / as it bucks and careens down the night dirt road of the arroyo fishtailing spraying grit."
"David Beaudouin publishes the most well-designed books in town," says Rosemary Klein, editor of the Maryland Poetry Review. "He has a passion for the visual in the poem and for the visual in the packaging of the poem." She cites "The American Night," a collaboration between Mr. Beaudouin and artist Thea Osato, which has been exhibited at several art galleries.
After college, Mr. Beaudouin worked as a night watchman for the Baltimore Museum of Art. He remembers hurrying on his rounds so he could have a few minutes to look at the art. His days were spent writing, sometimes about the art he had seen. Soon he entered the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, which he describes as a year of phenomenal growth for his writing.
He believes the now deceased Elliott Coleman, who was director of the Writing Seminars, to be one of the major forces in his life. "You knew you were in the presence of a Poet with a capital 'P,' " Mr. Beaudouin says. "He realized that the physical making of the poem was as satisfying as its content."
Mr. Beaudouin compares making the poem to giving birth and tells a story about holding his infant son and realizing, "This small package would one day be the only sense of myself to survive."
His poem, "The Time Machine," is based on that insight and suggests the reverence with which Mr. Beaudouin approaches both the art of writing poems and of publishing books: "I hold / him my / time machine / small pink / probe soaring out into / blue grid of new / century he / bears me / in his breath."
Who: David Beaudouin reading with Chris Mason
Where: Halcyon Gallery, 909 Fell St., Fells Point
When: Aug. 22, 8 p.m.
Admission: $4 donation
$ Call: (410) 276-1651