"The Corpse Flower" brings works from Bruce Beasley's first four award-winning collections together with twenty-five new poems, organizing them around the metaphor that gives the book its title: an enormous tropical bloom that reeks like carrion, and around whose three-day florescence "dung beetles & flies & sweat bees swarm / . . . pollen gummed all over / their furred feet." The corpse flower serves as a figure for Beasley's coming to terms with birth and death, fecundity and decay, the illusion of death, and the flourishing of the rare and beautiful out of the materials of the decayed.
"The Corpse Flower" traces a spiritual pilgrimage, weaving autobiography into a larger meditation on the materials of language and of the life of the spirit. Beasley's is a deeply physical spirituality - as he writes in one poem, "the soul's / impossible to tell / from the objects of its appetite." Throughout these poems, family mythology, as well as religious and mythic narrative and iconography, become occasions for extraordinary meditations on the physicality of birth and death, beginnings and endings. This substantial selection of Bruce Beasley's work, written over a twenty year period, offers the opportunity to experience, page by page, a poet's evolution, and to follow a unique, creative mind as it reaches, through interrogations of faith, science, and art, toward some form of resolution - a resolution increasingly represented by the beauties of language itself.
Bruce Beasley is professor of English at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He is the author of five previous books including "Spirituals" and "Signs and Abominations." Among his awards and honors are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Artist Trust, two Pushcart Prizes, the 1996 Colorado Prize (chosen by Charles Wright) for Summer Mystagogia, the Ohio State University Press / Journal Award for The Creation, and the Contemporary Poetry Series Award from the University of Georgia Press for Lord Brain.
On Summer Mystagogia
"These brilliant poems, often both mythic and demotic, powerfully initiate the reader into a world at once marred and yet suffused by the signs and wonders of an 'irresistible grace.' . . . A wonderfully resilient and hard-won poetry of witness." -"Boston Review"
"Bruce Beasley is not quite like anyone else, and his progress has been dazzling to follow, one of the most satisfying growths into a major poetic presence . . . I have witnessed. . . . His] ability to transubstantiate pain and loss into spiritual wonder is not to be missed." -"Field"
Praise for his previous books:
On Signs and Abominations
"Bruce Beasley has crafted a piece of supreme symmetry. . . . "Signs and Abominations" is the present and future of poetic, theoretical thought; it is indeed the best road map yet for divining the mysterious relationship between the human and ethereal energies." -"Contemporary Poetry Review"
"Startling, original . . . the monstrous and the divine flee from and chase one another throughout this fugal, challenging new book by one of our most stylistically and thematically intrepid young poets." -"Virginia Quarterly Review"
"In poem after poem in this book . . . the effect is stunning. This] is an important first book by an extremely talented young poet, a gift to us all." -"Quarterly West"
""Spirituals" is a book of apprenticeship in which one can see the potential for genius in the retelling of the old stories." -Mark Jarman, "Hudson Review"
"Bruce Beasley is a refreshingly physical poet. . . . He] has a good ear, essential to a poet, and sometimes his music is superb, almost as good as Yeats. . . . Beasley transforms longing into the ground of faith itself." -Kathleen Norris, "Books and Religion"