July 5, 2010

Getting Nude With Jan Beatty

This month we look at Jan Beatty's poem "Sitting Nude" from her collection Red Sugaras part of our current writing prompt.

In the book, she says that red sugar is "the sweet, deep inside of the body." Some reviews of her poetry point out that her poems are often sexually explicit, gutsy, or revealing. I think those are labels that limit poets.

The poems in the book that got me thinking about this month's prompt included one about a six year old girl encountering a naked man in the woods and running away. ("It's the body inside me that's running, my red sugar body that shows me the brutal road to love.")

In most of the poems, it's the inside of the body, not the fleshy outside, that carries the poem.

In another poem, a waitress sees a woman she believes is her birth mother. ("When I saw her up close, I knew she was blood.")

Yes, there are poems that are more blatantly sexual - meeting Eros at a downtown peep show and poems about kinds of sexual acts - but I was looking more at poems about wanting "to be the red sugar of the pomegranate."

With all that, it still surprises me that a bookseller found her poems too "erotic" for a reading.

Read a few of her poems, like "I'll Write the Girl" or "Report from the Skinhouse"

I went looking for the body.

The apple, tree, the river.
Gliding voice, curve of arm,
pearly blue uterus.

Muscled calf, the neptune green
eye, blood with the same
taste as mine.

Why do I write my report this way?
An adopted child needs to find a face.

What does a real mother's body look like?
River, chalkline, bloody cave?
and I think you'll probably agree.

For our July prompt (deadline August 1), we ask that you write a poem on nudity. It's a topic that easily goes in many directions - the sensual, the innocent, the erotic...

Books By Beatty

Boneshaker (Pitt Poetry Series)

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