11.22.2004

Jeanne Beaumont
Curious Conduct
BOA Editions, 2004
ISBN 1-929918-51-8

Jeanne Beaumont urged me to write some of my real reviews here or WHEREVER instead of the recent non-reviews. I will put this up at Amazon as a reader review too.

CURIOUS CONDUCT is Jeanne Marie Beaumont's long-awaited second book, following her 1996 NAtional Poetry Series - winning volume, PLACEBO EFFECTS. As her titles indicate, Beaumont tracks the ways human behavior, like poetic content, shivers free of formal and codified conscious understanding but cannot elude true poetry. The hallmarks of Beaumont's writing are clear rhetoric, measured phrasing, and a subtle sound that's round in the mouth. Descriptive lists of her nominal topics and various approaches through form and experiment get a little wacky: Jon Benet Ramsey meets early American mourning folk art; Bonnard greets Ionesco; both Snoopy and Italo Calvino are included under this "big tent." There's a sexy poem about a girl with a parasol:

"raw hand to the tusk, sliding up the varnished pole
great skirt of the thing flying open -- hoop
braid trim quivering there"
"Her Parasol," p. 15

and a scary terrorist poem that started out being about the sorts of accessories available at a dream five and dime ("of the last 5&10 / in America"), but ends:

" ...it's given
nothing away Now take your pocketbook home
hold it respectfully trembling in your hand
like one singled out by a terrorist."
"Accessory," p. 66

The poem is important, because it very quietly shines light on a loopy, feminine, working class, but very commercial "American Way of Life," even as it calmly associates an ars poetica (what is a "pocketbook" really), commerce, and sex (the woman is the purse).

The poem is dedicated to Terri Ford, about whose WHY SHIPS ARE SHE -- I think that's another in process review I'll just throw here. It has been too long.

CURIOUS CONDUCT begins "It was a dark and stormy night..." and ends with Joseph Cornell's star boxes. Thus the luminous details and observations are carefully arranged in Beaumont's wunderkammer of a book.


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