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Sandra Beasley – Count the Waves

July 11, 2015   |   2:00 pm

In this intense, illuminating collection of poems, Sandra Beasley examines how intimacy is lost and gained during our travels.

In Count the Waves, Sandra Beasley turns her eclectic imagination to the heart’s pursuits. A man and a woman sit at the same dinner table, an ocean of worry separating them. An iceberg sets out to dance. A sword swallower ponders his dating prospects. “The vessel is simple, a rowboat among yachts,” the poet observes in “Ukulele.” “No one hides a Tommy gun in its case. / No bluesman runs over his uke in a whiskey rage.”

Beasley’s voice is pithy and playful, with a ferocious intelligence that invites comparison to both Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker. In one of six signature sestinas, she warns, “You must not use a house to build a home, / and never look for poetry in poems.” The collection’s centerpiece is a haunting sequence that engages The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, an 1853 compendium of phrases for use by mail, telegraph, or the enigmatic “Instantaneous Letter Writer.”

Assembled over ten years and thousands of miles, these poems illuminate how intimacy is lost and gained during our travels. Decisive, funny, and as compassionate as she is merciless, Beasley is a reckoning force on the page.

Sandra Beasley is the author of I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize, as well as the memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. She received a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She serves on the faculty with the low-residency MFA program at the University of Tampa, and lives in Washington, DC.