Ordinary Beast

The fascinating arrangements and diverse tones of the poetry collection Ordinary Beast reveal a poet who's intellectually playful and ironically dark.

Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and raised in Florida, Nicole Sealey (The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named) delves into love, race and culture with wit and wily conceits. The collection contains 26 poems, including a number of sonnets. In "underperforming sonnet overperforming," Sealey's self-conscious, faux-triumphalist humor is perfectly crystallized: "this poem is, with enormous success,/ the only poem entirely imageless." In "an apology for trashing magazines in which you appear," ostensibly about falling in love with Brad Pitt via pop-culture media, the poet uses the same daft humor and numerous "pit" puns to make a more sobering point about the male gaze: "staring my epitaph/ down as if your gaze were the capital and my headstone a ghetto to be/ pitied."

Sealey can switch tones easily. One of her best poems, a meditative patchwork called "cento for the night i said, 'i love you,' " captures the otherworldly feeling of love with beautiful imagery. "White clouds against sky/ come humming toward me./ One closely resembling the beginning/ of a miracle," the poet writes. In another instance, the feeling is described as going "all the way to the vague influence of the distant stars." The poet asks what is a relationship but "Exchanging/ yearning for permanence." In its strange fluidity and shape shifting, Ordinary Beast offers some extraordinary moments. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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