Beatty in our Back/Yard
By Jay McCoy, Bluegrass Writers Studio
A few years ago, when I first got my hands on Jan Beatty’s poetry collection, Red Sugar (2008), I was captivated. Certain poems like “When Foucault Entered the Body” absolutely entranced me. I lost count of the number of times I read it aloud to myself or to any poet that would listen. I was on a mission. I immediately went in search of my next fix and found an earlier collection, Boneshaker (2002). Not only did it not disappoint, it intensified the craving. I grabbed her latest collection, The Switching/Yard (2013), as soon as it was available and devoured it in one sitting. Today, I find myself returning to Beatty’s work often for inspiration, writing instruction, and for pure unadulterated pleasure; I always discover some new insight with each reading.
In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper soon after the release of Red Sugar, Beatty said of her poem, “I Saw One of Blake’s Angels,” “I want the speaker of poems to be indicted most of the time. I hate this idea of the separate observer who’s not involved. I want interaction, I want communication. I want them to ram into each other. I want something to happen.” Something amazing always happens in Beatty’s poetry. She weaves unexpected combinations of accessible popular culture references through an unfiltered exploration of everyday reality and language. Nothing is off limits as a topic. Her varied work experience – as a waitress, a teacher, an abortion counselor, and a maximum-security prison social worker – greatly informs her poetry. She works creatively with meter and form; to say Beatty’s line breaks are genius would be an understatement. Reading her poetry has pushed me to experiment in my own writing, to test contextual limits and to strive to discover just how many different meanings a poet can wrench from a single line with insightful breaks and considered word choices.
Beatty directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, has lectured in several writing workshops and taught at the university level for over twenty years. She has performed at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival, Split this Rock Poetry Festival, and is now slated for the Bluegrass Writers Studio’s Winter Residency 2013. You can read more about Jan Beatty here and attend her free, public reading in the Lexington Downtown Hilton's Triple Crown Room at 5:30pm on January 6. See you there!
Published on November 28, 2013