“Valley Blues” by Cher Guevara— An Epic Poem

Guevara, Cher. “Valley Blues”, Writing Knights Press, 2018.

An Epic Poem

Amos Lassen

One of the things I love best about reviewing is watching writers mature both in content and in style. A young poet named Walter Beck approached me in 2012 and asked if I would be interested in reviewing his work and of course I agreed as I always do with new writer. Between 2012 and 2015, I wrote thirteen posts about young Beck and then quiet. I just assumed that the well was dry and besides I had so much to do, I didn’t really think about it. Then one day, I noticed a familiar face on Facebook and I realized that Walter Beck had become Cher Guevara.

“A cold voice,

what are you doing here, Beck?

My spirit replies,

I’m hearing the beautiful music

From the dry hills

And my name is Cher”.

I must say that I was not really surprised by the physical transformation. I had always thought of Beck as someone quite radical and I felt that there would always be surprises. His poetry was always radical but I must admit that I had not thought about the poet (I am trying to be careful with pronouns) and gender but that was my problem and not Beck’s.

“Valley Blues” is an ambitious undertaking just as changing from Walter Beck to Cher Guevara is ambitious and they both succeed. I love that Cher, the person, stands up for what is right and I certainly saw that in Beck’s early poems which now seem to me to be more angry that what I read in “Valley Blues”. Do not misunderstand me, there is anger but it more like being discontent than really boiling.

I understand that Cher wrote “Valley Blues” while in the western desert and I cannot think of a better place to find one’s stream of consciousness. I remember when I was a young (and good-looking) graduate student having gone to spend some time in Arizona for a Proust weekend. With great people and a little help from some substance, I appreciated Proust more than I had before or since. I have often wondered if when becoming someone else. One has to destroy the former being. If I understand Cher correctly, the new being came about as a result of destruction and self-discovery. Cher uses images that hit close to home:

“Dressing in fishnets and make up

in the July moonlight…

An old friend calls

tells me home is burning

The land of my rebirth

Is collapsing in chaos.”

This is the saga of the search for a road out of an exile that has lasted nearly a decade. Cher Guevara is from Avon, Indiana , not place where I imagine there are many gender queer people living so I can’t help but see him as a marked person and I can only imagine what life must be like for the poet. Nonetheless, Cher has made a name as a poet of the Indiana underground. Believe it or not this is his tenth book and in my opinion, the most mature of them.

There is a great deal that I can say about what the poetry brings us but I do not want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else. This is not just a read but a full and total experience. Cher mentions that they have become selfish over the years and would like some credit for the many changes that have come about. This, for me, was the only place I saw indulgence. What I do see more than anything else is a cry for acceptance. While we may not all be the same, there is humanity that unites us and we want to revel in that freely and liberated.

“Forget ‘em”.

Don’t let the bastards

Get you down.”

The poetry comes with wonderful pictures of Cher. He see him on his voyage and we are with him when “he keeps his blues songs alive”. Don’t miss this chance to meet a dynamic voice about the way we live.

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