Joshua Beckman, a poet by nature and trade, was invited in 1997 to the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York. During his residency there Beckman produced There is an Ocean, a joining of six prose poems and narratives about young men encountering large bodies of water. Selected lines of text are obscured, zig-zag-stitched over with blue threads machine-sewn into the pages. Each book in the edition of 100 reveals and obscures different moments in Beckman’s narrative, an intricate detail drawing the reader’s attention to themes of secrecy and freedom and the weight of those aspects of life that some keep painfully hidden – though there is also an implicit promise/hope that if all the books could be collected in one place it might actually be possible to read the whole story.
As Beckman himself has said, the book portrays the high stakes of letting oneself go, of the inherent tension and displaced youth of the young (especially young gay men). The text, partially revealed across the accordion style pages, invokes the feel of the ocean’s water as it sways and swells just before and after a large wave. The excitement is lost in the water’s crashing and with it, all its memories, leaving only a hint of recollection. Beckman’s incomplete stories reveal “the shifting concepts of time lived in an age where the risks of intimacy seem to have dangerously moved out of control.” There is an Ocean, with its secret stitching, is all the while a brave encounter with the vastness of the unknown.