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The Mental Traveler
Rosace Publications, 2018
The Mental Traveler is a lost-then-found manuscript of 20th-century American poetry that was completed in 1990, but remained unpublished. Now released for the first time, The Mental Traveler reveals a notable range of David Omer Bearden’s work, starting with his formative years in 1958 while attending the University of Tulsa.
The Mental Traveler's theme pays homage to William Blake's out-worldly poem The Mental Traveller with great respect. As we digest Bearden's work, we realize that he not only embodies and mirrors the concepts of Blakes poem he becomes an entity all of his own. The Mental Traveler has an autobiographical component to it that takes you on a journey from when he was born in 1940 up to 1990; sharing his personal life about love, friendship, family, joy, grief, suffering, and redemption.
Bearden's poetry takes your headspace into higher frequencies that challenge the common terrestrial ideas; where the mundane becomes miraculous. The ordinary becomes holy and shifts your consciousness out of the conventional humdrum. His unique brand of personal folklore and wordsmithing as well as creating his own (Beardenisms) language, demands the reader to redefine their prescriptions of literary normality.
David Omer Bearden is the surviving brother of twins born in the Sonoran Desert of Blythe, California in 1940. David dedicated his creative life to writing poetry, starting from the post-Beat era, until he passed away in 2008 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
He was a widely-traveled poet and musician who possessed intelligent wit and biting insight. His character and literary work were respectfully admired by colleagues such as Ted Berrigan, Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey, Steven Lieper, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, Maureen Owen, Ron Padgett, Charles Plymell, Roxie Powell, Alan Russo, and singer/songwriter Judee Sill*, with whom Bearden shared a deep and poetic romance.
He is also known as the "Apocalypse Rose."
* Special Note: The Mental Traveler includes an intimate joint diary between David Bearden and Judee Sill while they were on tour in England, 1973.
“Somewhere between Blake, Hank Williams and Homer, David Omer Bearden traveled a poetic line and gave himself over to it. ‘To waltz is to leave without paying’, he says in one poem. ‘Which undermine all noble arrangements’, he says in another. Bearden is one of those poets who begins an old man and gets younger as he progresses. Out of time all of the time, the window he shares with us allows us both a view into his poems and a view of him. Born in Blythe, California, raised in the 40s and 50s, senses sharpened in the 60s and 70s. Who has time for a career when you’re studying the line this hard? ‘I set fire to bitter walking papers./I was ever the I am not in those good days.’ The Mental Traveler brings the reader into the sharp, sardonic and gorgeous observations of this fine bard that we may ‘. . . interpolate him into here/flash-drowning world/one moment/before the blink.’ Poetry has always had a home for the outsider, and David Bearden waits there now, his poems in your hands.”
— Edmund Berrigan
“It is clear that David Omer Bearden took himself very seriously. It is equally clear that he also took the craft of poetry and the world he created with his poetry seriously. . . There is an autobiographical component to this work as a whole, and often specifically. . . We are taken on a wide and deep journey through his life, exposed often to his negative responses to his environment. Yet, his descriptions of the desert flora around Blythe, California and various places in Oklahoma show by eloquent detail, his constant sensitivity to his environment. . . One cannot read these poems without realizing you are in the presence of an important poet. His ability to illuminate a landscape with notes of emotive description is superb. One soon realizes that this is ingrained in the body and mind of this poet and his unique renderings of his observations are far purer than stylized. His mind and his craft seem to be one.”
— Roxie Powell
“David Omer Bearden’s work speaks to the traveller in all of us and touches on a kind of allusion found in the poets I love: Rimbaud & Lorca; with the sensuality of Neruda. He creates these authentic images of places that feel like out of memory or in a Terrence Malick film; somewhere between the sacred and the mundane. . . Bearden is one of those important poets whose voice is unique and in the long tradition of the great written word going back to the Ancient Greeks.”
— Nicholas Tolkien
“Poets sometimes explode with radiance and then die young. This is the romantic model that so appeals to the sophomoric, but which is not a literary necessity. In David Omer Bearden’s case, he burned bright and early, intimidated his colleagues, and then continued to survive, getting painfully battered the way life does to everybody. The upside of living a long life as a poet may be that suffering ceases to be an aesthetic foundation for preciousness, and becomes the coin of the realm. In a great poet’s life, the drubbings of experience cut far deeper than with ordinary mortals. It becomes a miracle of creation when the infrequent psychic alchemy occurs which transmutes ugly experience into beautiful Art.”
— Dion Wright
“Bearden’s earlier poems are full of neo-surreal descriptions, with elaborate images, and intimate know-how of American lingo. His most recent identity as a ‘traveler’ focuses more directly and with strong success on lyrical, romantic themes of love, friendship, and family. As a fellow poet, I admire his ability to access and phrase as achieved in the title poem. ‘And the wayfaring traveller; For ever open is his door. . . Till he becomes a wayward Babe, And she a weeping Woman Old, Then many a Lover wanders here; The Sun and Stars are nearer roll’d’”
— Gerd Stern