Susan Swartwout: Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit (Poetry)

Susan Swartwout’s exquisite poetry collection, Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, captures, under dirty mason jar glass, a visceral, grotesque, and, at times, beautifully demented circus of Southern Gothic aesthetics.

“When our eyes have opened to shadows in mote-thick air of the circus tent,
when old men’s droning of what circus once was and mothers’ sibilant
scolding to restless children has slowed to a barely perceptible pulse,

the carney throws back the bedsheet curtain, strides to stage’s edge
where he pauses, above us. In the growled breath of a crank caller, he twangs
his whiskey-hard speil: what you are about to see…nothin’ ever like it

on earth…”

In Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, monsters and beasts lurk beneath freak show tents in sweltering state fairs, on morgue slabs, under beds in eerie, poverty-stricken houses, in Central American village squares, and behind the eyes of Civil War-era Southern belles.

Amidst the Barnum pomp and sideshow celebrities like Tom Thumb and Chang and Eng Bunker, lie quiet ruminations on love, sex, travel, political regimes, and ignorance born of privilege.

My personal favorite poems are “The Expanse Between Porch and Sky,” a defiant Dust Bowl romance, and “Stay on the Planet,” which urges us to seek and acknowledge the world’s beauty in the face of our own mortality.

For, as Susan Swartwout so eloquently and vividly portrays in Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, life is the true circus and we are all freaks.

Buy @ Amazon

Current Read: “The Summer Before the War” by Helen Stimonson

The Summer Before the War is the fabulous followup to Helen Simonson’s delightful debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. The book tells the tale of an independent female teacher and the rigidly old-fashioned community who hires (and judges) her, blissfully ignorant of world events that will soon threaten their idyllic, Edwardian way of life. Somewhere between Lark Rise to Candleford and Downton Abbey, between antebellum and interbellum, is The Summer Before the War.

Buy @ Amazon

Helen Simonson Official Site’s Top 10 Books of 2015

10 John Furrow: The Storm Murders

9 Seth Greenland: I Regret Everything

8 Sophie Hannah: Woman With a Secret

7 Alice Fulton: Barely Composed

6 Michelle Penazola: landscape/heartbreak

5 Ron Rash: Above the Waterfall

4 Stuart Rojstaczer: The Mathematician’s Shiva

3 Kate Morton: The Lake House

2 Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking

1 Victoria Hislop: The Sunrise