With lacerating honesty, technical mastery, and abiding compassion, Made to Explode offers volatile poems for our volatile times.
In her fourth collection, acclaimed poet Sandra Beasley interrogates the landscapes of her life in decisive, fearless, and precise poems that fuse intimacy and intensity. She probes memories of growing up in Virginia, in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow, where liberal affluence obscured and perpetuated racist aggressions, but where the poet was simultaneously steeped in the cultural traditions of the American South. Her home in Washington, DC, inspires prose poems documenting and critiquing our capital’s institutions and monuments.
In these poems, Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows up at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s show of Kiss Me Kate; Albert Einstein is memorialized on Constitution Avenue, yet was denied clearance for the Manhattan Project; as temperatures cool, a rain of spiders drops from the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. A stirring suite explores Beasley’s affiliation with the disability community and her frustration with the ways society codes disability as inferiority.
Quintessentially American and painfully timely, these poems examine legacies of racism and whiteness, the shadow of monuments to a world we are unmaking, and the privileges the poet is working to untangle. Made to Explode boldly reckons with Beasley’s roots and seeks out resonance in society writ large.
About the Author
Sandra Beasley is the author of three previous poetry collections—including I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize—and one memoir. The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, she lives in Washington, DC.
Made to Explode makes no attempt whatsoever to fight shy of dazzling and rafter-rattling detonation. Here the poet, known for her smooth mastery of craft and lyric, examines a life lived in and around the capital of her fractured and restless country. She aims unerringly at the contradictions of lush, picture-book days in Virginia, and later DC, with its paradoxes, its stern testaments, its stone institutions. In the process, she redefines her own root. There is unwavering insight in these poems. There is tenderness and personal revelation. There is everything we waited for.
— Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art
I know I am reading a Sandra Beasley poem when precision and music are driven by emotive, passionate force…But what I most recommend, and what I am most compelled by in these pages is their engagement with American history. ‘Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits in the nineteenth row of my heart,’ writes Beasley in what, in the end, becomes a book of reckoning. Beasley questions the late empire, yes, but perhaps more importantly, more honestly: she questions herself. Which is why, I think, this is a most beautiful book: you will find virtuoso music, and necessary clarity. — Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
A rare and vibrant exploration of whiteness and complicity when it comes to America’s history and traditions, Made to Explode is a courageous interrogation of self, culture, and how we are made. Both unflinching and tender, Beasley’s smart and radiant poems glow with a historian’s exactitude and a poet’s lyrical heart.