COLLECTED POEMS, 1924-1974
by JOHN BEECHER
290 pages. Macmillan. $8.95.
If John Beecher were a character actor instead of a poet, he could play all the best parts in a pageant of America past. He has the face for roles as a Confederate general, a turn-of-the-century president of Harvard, or even the most distinguished presence in the hobo jungle, the man everyone calls "Gentleman Jack."
A native of Alabama, a student at Harvard and Cornell, a steelworker and a merchant seaman as well as a professor of sociology, Beecher, 70, seems less a poet than...