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Done with Beauty: on Sandra Beasley—Festival Headliner

by Jennifer Jean

“And the artist in me saw a great opportunity in surgery.”
~bambam future M.D.

Sandra Beasley is a kind of surgeon. Her knife is poetry. Consider the penultimate line in her collection Count the Waves. “I am done with beauty,” she says. She’s analyzing a peacock’s rear. Not the feathers, but the butt, essentially. Throughout the poem, she’s parsing expectations—the usual direction of a gaze; the usual direction of praise or poetry; and, the usually ignored meanness of that bird. She’s staring hard at these things, and remarking. With precision. To end the poem, and the collection ends, she tells us:  “Only a blinking eye can measure the light.” We end on biologic fact. On basic function. On a poet’s function.

To continue the surgeon metaphor—the flesh cut into, and sutured, is language. The major poem sequence in the collection, “The Traveler’s Vade Mecum,” serves as an example. In this sequence, originally a prize-winning chapbook from The Center for Book Arts in 2013, the poems are each inspired by a line from A.C. Baldwin's 1853 list of over 8,000 conversational/epistolyrical phrases for travelers.