Oyster Boy Review 18  
  Winter 2003–4
» Cover

» Art
» Poetry
» Fiction
» Essays
» Reviews
» Contributors

» Oyster Boy Review
» Levee 67


I Will Say Beauty, by Carol Frost

Reginald Shepherd

  I Will Say Beauty.
Carol Frost.
TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2003.
70 pages, $14.95 (paperback).
ISBN: 0810151391

Carol Frost's poems have an exuberant and often extravagant lyricism that's very appealing. Their lavish language and imagery is mirrored in the lush natural landscapes (primarily those of tropical Florida) in which the poems are set, landscapes charged with significances the poems usually leave just out of reach, "a sweet, negligent sentence // that the mind magnifies." Frost loves listing the objects of her enchantment, the objects of the physical world which enchant her: "I consider my own similes—gardens, trees, / an orchard still rooted, light marine / in the blown air, fruit drunken on the swirl." Like the fecund landscapes they portray, these poems are full to bursting. But they aren't simplistically or evasively pretty; they don't whitewash or evade the refuse and detritus of the world: knowing that "The body has a season and hungers," their response is "Whatever it means, why not say it hurts." The beautiful in these poems doesn't exclude pain; indeed, sometimes it's pain's source. Conversely, pain can be a resource, out of which beauty is made. We see this process of making something of pain in a poem like "The Gross Clinic," which juxtaposes the speaker's troubled nephew's psychic scars, her sister the veterinarian's surgeries that both inflict and heal wounds, Michelangelo's investigations of the sometimes tortured forms that human flesh takes, and the scarred and grizzled protagonists of the Trojan War, wearing their battles on their skin, to teach us "this lesson of body." The syntax of these poems is highly elastic and flexible, able to take in all the things with which the poems are brimming; at times the syntax gets a bit tangled and hard to follow, but this is only an occasional problem. Overall, this book shows Carol Frost to be a very fluent and often eloquent poet. As she insists in the last line of one poem, "I will say beauty," and so she does.