Think Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath as read by Dorothy Parker, and you'll hear the fine-always passionate, sometimes sexual-ironies that make up Beasley's collection, selected by Joy Harjo as winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Not surprisingly, it contains poems that echo the repetition found in much of Harjo's work, particularly "She Had Some Horses." Most of the poems weave a dark spell by mixing serious and playful tones and by presenting oddly juxtaposed metaphors. One of the best, "Beauty," is an extended metaphor comparing beautiful objects to a stray dog. Several poems rely somewhat heavily on mythological allusions whose context isn't necessarily accessible to all readers of poetry. Beasley does not take great pains to suggest the backstory on which her images rely. Yet in most of these poems, Beasley's language and surrealistic style build up to a compelling, even hypnotic intensity. This happens especially in poems like "Japanese Water Bomb" and "The Plays of Liliput," in which benign images suddenly take a predatory turn as the poems' unexpected shift in direction makes perfect sense.
VERDICT: Readers of contemporary poetry, take note.
Causes Sandra Beasley Supports
Virginia Center for Creative Arts, The Writer's Center, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, Food Allergy Initiative.