Wyatt Earp is more than a legend; he’s the embodiment of the American Wild West. It’s easy to reduce a man of such stature to mere stereotypes and iconoclasm, to leave out the women who inspired him, or to rely on the slander of those he defeated; but forgoing the myths, wordsmith Larry Beckett skirts the overwrought icon and gives us instead the aches, loves, and morals of the flesh-and-blood human.
Wyatt Earp follows the famed lawman and his historic posse through the streets of Tombstone, in a natural five-act tragedy: the western zone, rise of the outlaws and hero, the showdown, fall of the outlaws and hero, the vendetta ride. In striking prose poetry that makes use of Earp’s own words, Beckett has mined newspapers, from Tombstone’s Epitaph to the San Francisco Examiner, Earp’s written testimonies, and biographer interviews to get to the humanity behind the folklore.
Wyatt Earp was a man of his word, committed to the law, who faced his father, armed mobs, assassins, and, as his companion Doc Holliday says: he walked right in. But he also believed in peace and did all he could to avoid violence. Antithesis makes myths of American men, and as his friend Bat Masterson says: the story of Wyatt Earp is the story of the West.
LARRY BECKETT’s poetry ranges from songs, like the modern standard “Song to the Siren,” to blank sonnets, Songs and Sonnets, published by Rainy Day Women Press, to the epic American Cycle: out of which come Paul Bunyan, from Smokestack Books, Amelia Earhart, from Finishing Line Press, and this volume from Alternating Current Press. Beat Poetry is a study of the poets and poetry of the fifties San Francisco renaissance.