Elevate Difference

I Was the Jukebox

As a poet myself, it’s inspiring to come across a writer like Sandra Beasley. Not only is she highly talented, but she’s also a young, female poet who has already published two book-length collections and received national recognition and awards. In her latest collection, I Was the Jukebox, it’s easy to see why she’s so successful. From the first page to the ninetieth page Beasley blends refreshing imagery with unique diction. She mixes myth and modernity. She creates lines that float from the pages and haunt your thoughts.

“You Were You,” which features the title line, is a primary example of Beasley’s mastery. From “I wanted to dance. I wanted a scotch. / I wanted you to take your hands off her” to “I played Aretha, Marvin, the Reverend Al” you can hear the rhythm in her poetry and you can clearly visualize the speaker’s life as a jukebox.

In “I Don’t Fear Death,” Beasley examines what’s behind nature and life from a female perspective: “what I really believe is that / we keep growing: infinite corn, / husk yielding to green husk. / I look back on the miles / connecting me to Earth, think / I’d have never worn those shoes.”

“Japanese Water Bomb” explores a relationship from both a male and female point of view. The subject of fragility is paired with Beasley’s vivid descriptions and musings and culminates in an explosive ending. Lines like “How the difference between an igloo and a block / of ice is only the body sheltered beneath it” lead to the powerful last few lines “How the moment splits, / a mitosis of love and chronology: how he is / her present. How she has become his past.”

Unlike many poets, Beasley effectively gives her subjects a voice. I Was the Jukebox includes a series of poems that allow things like an eggplant, a platypus, and a piano to speak. These poems make you stop and think “Wow, music really does seem to ‘slide loose’ from a piano,” and “Why is it called a duckbilled platypus anyways?”

Poetry is supposed to accomplish all that Beasley’s poems accomplish—it should make you think of something in a new way, it should leave you breathless, and it should follow you long after you’re done reading.

Written by: Michelle Tooker, June 13th 2010

great review! Thanks Michelle.