Frances Justine Post’s BEAST is dangerous. I say this not to invoke the cheap thrills of a horror flick—the danger of BEAST stems from Post’s chilling preciseness and authority. With a mixture of macabre imagery and charming seductiveness, BEAST weaves a complex tapestry of visceral emotion and self-actualization that stays with you long after the final poem. She warns us from the beginning that she’s ready to attack:
In BEAST, there is no sense of past, present, or future, but a continuum of experience. People who are gone have never actually left, and linger Post’s fantastical world like dark matter. They follow Post like ghosts as she investigates her world, attempting to see herself in its horrible beauty. In “Self-Portrait in the Body of a Whale,” she steps into the whale with infallible curiosity:
Injury becomes a universal truth, something both she and the whale can experience equally. Post wants to embody not only her own injury, but also the world’s, moving from body to body in order to live that truth. In “Self-Portrait as the Crumbs You Dropped,” she moves quickly from the crumbs to the crows who eat them, rapidly pulsing herself through the rest of the world:
These creatures and discards of life give voice and substance to the namelessness of anguish and loss, the aftermath of devastation Post pours onto the page. What’s unnamable become things we can follow with our gaze, both lust over and fear.
BEAST ends in a gothic climax, and walks the line between violence and artistry. In “Self Portrait as Cannibal” Post becomes the ultimate, animalistic human, a cannibal reflecting on and cherishing her victim’s body. The self-portrait is both eerie and terrifying, without becoming a gory indulgence.
Despite being in the same space as a cannibal, Post invoked more admiration in me than fear. There’s an esoteric beauty in the way she peels a human of its life, taking it into her like a spiritual fruit. BEAST makes me consider the archetypes of my own anger and sadness, and the fury compacts them. A terrifying love pours forth in these poems, and one can’t help but fall for such a luxurious feasting.
BEAST is available from Augury Books
Nic Walker lives in Houston, TX and has an MFA in poetry from University of Houston. She currently teaches at Lone Star Community College. Her work can be found in Southern Humanities Review.