Sandra Beasley’s second book of poetry, i was the jukebox, catches your attention from the title, and doesn’t let it go ‘til the last line of the last poem. These 45 poems remind readers what good, timeless poetry is. If you think you don’t like poetry because you can’t understand it, read this book. Beasley will convert you. She has written real, honest poems that catch you off guard, insist that you pay attention, change the way you think. Love poems to college, oxidation, Los Angeles, and Wednesday in this collection, nestle among poems written from the voices of the Minotaur, piano, platypus, eggplant, orchis, sand, and the world war. Though there are three whose titles begin “Another Failed Poem About…” there are no failed poems here.
I was hooked as soon as I read the first lines of “The Sand Speaks,” the book’s initial work: “I’m fluid and omnivorous, the casual/ kiss. I’ll knock up your oysters.” “I’ll knock up your oysters” forces you to stop and evaluate what you just read, and it’s a line that readers will remember. The final line of the book’s last poem, “Proposal” is no less thought-provoking: “Promise you’re worth my weight in burning.”
Time and again, as I read and reread, I stopped to think and reorient myself to the way I fit in the world. It is a gifted poet who can do that several times in a series of poems. It is an amazing poet who can do it as many times as Beasley does in this work. Her Bernard Women Poets Prize is well-earned.