Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

JEFFERY BEAM (1953–)

Cy Dillon


BIOGRAPHY

Jeffery Beam was born in Concord, North Carolina, on April 4, 1953, to Robert W. and Allie Mae Ervin Beam. He grew up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in a typically southern environment of textile mills, evangelical Protestantism, and immersion in the natural world. Siblings include an older sister, Vickie, and an older brother, Steve. Robert lost a leg in an automobile accident when Beam was five, and Allie Mae supplemented the family income as a child-care worker. In addition to his mother, Beam was influenced by Willie Mae Gill, his grandmother, who was a committed gardener and whose appreciation of the natural world contrasted with the systematic spirituality the family absorbed from the Methodist church. Whatever cruelty he may have encountered in this traditional, blue-collar environment, Beam received a good education in the public schools of Kannapolis, and his writing ability led to editorship of the high school newspaper. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), Charlotte, Beam pursued a degree in creative arts in writing (1975) rather than a traditional English program. He also served as the editor of Sanskrit, the university arts magazine. Shortly after graduating he came under the influence of Jonathan Williams,* now publisher at the Jargon Society’s press, and others of the Black Mountain school of poets.

Beam began working for the UNC library in Chapel Hill after college and rose through the ranks to become assistant to the botany librarian. This career has blended well with his interest in horticulture and the need for attention to detail and organization in his work, but the work schedule has made his career as a poet difficult. Nevertheless, over the past twenty-five years Beam has constantly written, published, edited, criticized, reviewed, and promoted poetry with exceptional energy. He maintains a full schedule of readings, serves as poetry editor of The

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