Beast by Frances Justine Post

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To read Beast by Frances Justine Post you must have a glass of spirits. Or wine. A red so dry you have to chew.

Consider these last lines from the poem “Afterlife”:

You turned me off, so coldly. You wanted this.
If this is the end, then take it all.
Even the windbreak of cedars in Indiana
where I’m not from but from and must go.

In Beast every poem takes place after. This is a post-world where the poet wanders alone in memory and shadow. There is much at stake here because there is nothing at stake. The language of these poems is a post-language. To read Beast correctly you should be draped in buffalo fur and traveling on a train. The lights of the train flickering on and off, the wheels unsteady on the rails. This is what Beast does to you. It makes you want to get up and live viscerally. Throw away your sad purse and worn out yoga pants.

Beast feels like a book written in the singular. Even the use of you sounds like a part of one self.

In the books first poem Self-Portrait as Beast we hear

The uneasy feeling
of a stranger by your side. Turn around:
I am the stranger.

Later in this poem she asks “What did I wear when we were new?” There is bravery in these lines.

We are at our most free in Language. In poems we can say anything. The poet Matthew Dickman says “poems are the presence of absence and the absence of presence.” Dickman cites the incomplete world as a source for poems. To free himself he let go of the stanza. Throughout Beast, Post is letting go and also gathering. Her poems contain lines from the work of James Joyce, Wilco, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, Richard Hughes and the photographer Cecilia Post. What this means for the reader is Beast is rich in language.

From “Looking At Photographs”:

I’ve already
pulled my heart from its cushion
It hangs out front like a carnival flower[/lineate

Frances PostBeast contains five parts. Each part feels like another way into the self. There is an interior in these poems that feels both familiar and other-worldly. The use of the term Self-Portrait in many of the titles is not lost on the self. These are our portraits. Throughout Beast Post is as much an observer as she is a participant, as much creator as believer.
From Marionette

Let go,
and I gasp as if swallowing
the whole world. I wanted to swallow it,
so I wrote it. And I wrote you here,
in front of the window
out of which the leaves are turning red
and then losing it.

Post is a poet who begins her first book with the line “I put on my face.” I put on my face feels like the opening line of an honest monologue. A dark stage with one light from that light a voice. I put on my face is a pleading, an opening for a listener. Here in lies the complexity and sophistication of Beast. I put on my face means Post has a past. We have much to gain from Post because she has much to give. Beast is a book to fight off mediocrity and middle of the road culture. These are poems that stick to your bones.

Tova Gannana is the poetry editor of The Arava Review. She writes film essays for berBICE{MRKT}.com. Finishing Line Press published her first book of poems, Human Dust, in 2012. She is the recipient of three Artist Grants from the Vermont Studio Center. More from this author →