cover image Made to Explode

Made to Explode

Sandra Beasley. Norton, $26.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-393-53160-2

The vibrant fourth collection from Beasley (Count the Waves) offers a litany of sensual pleasures and careful self-reckoning. Playful considerations of peaches, fried fish, grits, and other foods serve the poet to wide-ranging ends. Imagining the painter Marc Chagall transplanted from Belarus to Biloxi, the poet rhapsodizes about the silver fish native to the Gulf: “holy mullet would/ ring over his rooftops—// mullet, on violin—rooster/ and mullet, mullet and goat,” and muses, “how one// can scavenge the bottom/ and still rise, without apology,/ by the silvered dozen.” A series of ekphrastic prose poems at the book’s center describe national monuments, relying on their less than subtle ironies. On Roosevelt’s memorial: “This sculpted wall is supposed to speak of WPA, CCC, the alphabet agencies. But its Braille dots are oversized beyond any one fingertip. This is gibberish, a visitor says, feeling the spaces between.” Throughout the book, the poet contends with the pain of coming to terms with her Southern white heritage. A poem about whiteness, in which “my performative strip of self/ still trash[es] up the place,” ends with an ancestral invocation: “Virginia, my ghosts/ need gathering./ Come to the table/ and sit, goddamit. Sit.” Beasley uses her trademark humor and wit to explore the heavier parts of personal and national identity in this energetic and varied outing. (Feb.)