This review of Mandy Beaumont’s poetry chapbook was first published in Rave Magazine.
Mandy Beaumont’s new chapbook is stellar, splendid, magnificent, and complex. Good. I have that out of way.
The poems are lyrical in style: highly personal and potently abstract. On the other hand, they also fit within a narrative structure. Each poem centres around the story of a nameless she that changes from poem to poem; the narrator carefully watches these people, tries to help them, connect, but is inevitably distanced by that metaphorical window, the text. She can but look in/on as these women live.
The stories mostly concern harmful or finishing relationships, but the blame is never lumped onto the woman, either for failing themselves or for failing to kick the abuser/user out the door. But, most importantly, the poems never fail to acknowledge and express the pleasure that these women experience, in amongst even the bad relationships and oblivious partners. In “The Heat of Heaven’s Wild,” the protagonist luxuriates in the physical and mental ache after good sex—even when the partner is transient. She’s “very far away in thinking/ that he can give her anything real.” Real here just refers to his physical presence; but the poem then goes on to question the importance of this lack. The narrator reminds the protagonist that “he’s given her thousands of Coleridge love heart lines/ the image of him perfect in climax;” the protagonist realises that, even if he is gone for now, the “heart burning heat ardour for him” still riots through her days. It gives the status of reality to this transient relationship. Even when he’s gone, her pleasure remains real and tangible. The poem validates the pleasure this woman feels; it doesn’t turn her sexuality into a pathology because she doesn’t intend to marry the man.
Hope runs through these poems, even at their bleakest. The narrator, while unable to affect these women directly, still provides solidarity as a silent witness, if only by her understanding, care and sensitivity of portrayal. Indeed, the opening poem directly addresses the she’s of the text, saying that yes you “must bear the “great weight of the moon,” the simple fact of their sex—in a world where that’s enough to endanger you; but there is also always the possibility of new “beginnings,” of power reclaimed, and pleasure grasped.