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Signs and Abominations
Bruce Beasley

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2000 • 150 pp. 6 x 9"

$16.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6456-6

“The record of a confrontation with modernity in which modernity’s victory over faith is not acknowledged . . . Beasley finds in ugliness and in the profane an... [continued in Reviews below]”—Publishers Weekly

Poems search for signs of the divine amid the abominations of the profane and the materials of language itself.

Signs and Abominations is a radical tour de force that interrogates the relationship between religion and art at the end of the 20th century in penetrating and sensuous prosody. It can be read as a series of damaged likenesses: humans as the damaged image and likeness of God, poems and other works of art as necessarily incomplete attempts to approach and represent the numinous and the ineffable.

The reader is guided through its five interconnected sections by diverse voices: Michelangelo, Andres Serrano, Flannery O'Connor, Emily Dickinson, Soren Kierkegaard, Augustine, to name a few. All of the book's figures -- the child-Crusaders stumbling toward Jerusalem, the man who wants to preserve for posterity his body entirely covered with tattoos, Andres Serrano submerging a crucifix in his own urine -- set out on a deformed search for signs of the divine among the abominations of the profane. These poems are brilliance cast back at the hypocritical religiosity of those who refuse to admit that the spiritual and the profane inextricably encompass each other, and that art and religion have more in common than not.

Reviews / Endorsements

“The record of a confrontation with modernity in which modernity’s victory over faith is not acknowledged . . . Beasley finds in ugliness and in the profane an affirmation rather than a repudiation of the idea of God . . . The best poems here . . . have a density of language and observed detail that capture, in their vertiginous forms, the qualities of modern life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Bruce Beasley is writing as close to the bone of meaning as any poet I can think of today. Signs and Abominations is a passionate, difficult book about the capacity for language to signify anything beyond itself. He wonders how the profane can hold the sacred, how the monstrous can contain the holy, how a deformed language can embody not only the soul’s deformity but its beauty. He comes down clearly on the side of essence, but the way there is a dark struggle.”—Mark Jarman, Vanderbilt University

BRUCE BEASLEY is Professor of English at Western Washington University, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellow, and author of three books of poetry, including Spirituals (Wesleyan, 1988). His second book, The Creation, received the 1993 Ohio State University Press/Journal Award, and his Summer Mystagogia was selected by Charles Wright for the 1996 Colorado Prize.

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:27:31 -0500