THE BOOK: BEAST.
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
THE AUTHOR: Mara Adamitz Scrupe.
THE PUBLISHER: National Federation of State Poetry Societies Press (NFSPS PRESS). The National Federation of State Poetry Societies is a non-profit organization focused on poetry and education, which sponsors more than fifty annual poetry contests. NFSPS also sponsors the annual Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition for the best collection of poems by a single poet. BEAST is the 2014 winner of that competition.
SUMMARY: I began writing BEAST some ten years ago at a time of great change in my life; I had a new job, I had relocated to a new city, and I was also reassessing the single most important close relationship in my life.
During that period, at moments when everything seemed in flux and out of control, the only reliable method I could muster for coping with the changes I was experiencing involved jotting down my thoughts and feelings: on scraps of paper, or on my cellphone, or anywhere else I could preserve them to reckon with later. Some days, sitting in my car in a parking lot before going into a meeting, I found myself frantically writing down everything that was going through my mind. These weren’t poems – the formal invention came later – but instead served as means for organizing, understanding and managing the many shifts in my life, not the least of which was the changing face of my marriage.
Though I’d spent most of my professional life as a visual artist, I’d always privately written poetry, and also published essays, articles and reviews about art. Deciding to seriously focus on writing poems, and assembling a collection of poetry, felt very personal, frightening, and revelatory in ways that made me feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, in some ways BEAST almost wrote itself, as a process of taking stock and as a means of pointing myself in the right direction in my life. Ultimately, I suppose this is what poetry does best: helping us express and closely examine experiences and emotions that are recognized, embraced, and shared between a writer and her readers
THE BACK STORY: BEAST emerged from a decade I spent documenting my thoughts about loving as we grow older. While this poetry collection is not specifically about aging, the poems address how we navigate love’s disappointments as we grow and change, resisting cynicism while ultimately embracing joy, if in somewhat chastened forms. Having been married for more than thirty years, this book is truly a reflection of what I’ve learned, and have yet to learn, about love as selfishness and generosity, loyalty and abandonment, solace and sadness. BEAST lets loose on the many conflicting emotion we all experience in our relationships with those we love, and how we survive life’s hardest disappointments to keep on trying to have that most fragile, ecstatic and rewarding of experiences, love shared with another human being.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I’ve always privately referred to those less appealing human emotions like anger, envy, jealousy, and regret, as “beasts in the basement”. When I began assembling this collection of poems about love and loss, it seemed that BEAST was the natural title for the collection. Likewise, since these poems so often employ nature as a metaphor, the title struck me as fitting.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? BEAST is a book of love poems for adults. It’s tough and dry-eyed, sexy and tender, and full of wonder at relishing and surviving love. If you’ve ever been in love, these poems might resonate with you.
Beast is aptly and perfectly named. From start to finish the poems in this collection are physical — resolutely alive to all that is alive in us, all-too-frail, all-too-human, ‘beasts’ with ‘ our self deceptions, encumbrances, limitations’ (“River Musk Perfume”). Yet at the same time, metaphysically, poem after poem turns a questioning, lively, and emotionally honest eye on how we ‘ pass our days, metering the hours now/until morning’s last solitary stars’ (“Reckonings”)
Beast is always much, much more than one poem facing another across a page, or simply following on. The sequencing throughout is both intelligent and instinctive — something as rare as it is wonderful. Poems call out, wait for an answer, and then listen. The protagonist of “Chores”, ‘wiping up messes- today’s/tomorrow’s – ‘ knows the truth that we, as humans, are simply custodians ‘of all things that fall apart’ ‘(Handyman’) These assured poems speak to each other before they turn to speak to us, and the collection as a living, breathing whole is all the more powerful as a result.
The poetic voice in Beast is sometimes raw, often compassionate, frequently beautiful, consistently real, and devoid of any posturing. This is mature work crafted by a mature poet in full command of her art. I am not at all surprised that it has been awarded such a prestigious prize. — Enda Coyle-Greene, author of Map of the Last, Dublin, February 2015
Mara Adamitz Scrupe’s poetry is like her — fierce, fragile, reticent, and unrelenting. There are here plain truths ( Paul Harvey on the radio preached parables and broken chaff, dust and snow and caution, in familiar remnant phrases) and lyric sights ( August dry birds’ mating in huge whoring throngs, exoskeletons resonating to beat the band).
In every line, the constant is honesty, ruthless, rugged, tender, resonating to beat the band. — Jacquelyn Mitchard, author The Deep End of the Ocean
AUTHOR PROFILE: Mara Adamitz Scrupe and her two sisters were raised by a single mom, a farm girl who left the country for the city to train and work as an executive secretary. She met and married a handsome, smart and charming young man who was also alcoholic and unable to hold down a job. Scrupe’s first book of poems, “Sky Pilot”, takes as its subject her father’s struggles with alcoholism, and his eventual death from complications of Mesothelioma.
Growing up with an alcoholic father, and a beautiful and hardworking mother, some of the most important and lasting experiences of Scrupe’s life she learned by the time she was six years old including loyalty, teamwork, responsibility and self-discipline. She also witnessed first-hand the many ways we navigate love’s complexities, and how Mara Adamitz Scrupe is both a poet and visual artist; she has created significant bodies of work in poetry, artists’ books, sculpture, installation, and social practice. Her art projects have received wide recognition with exhibitions and permanent commissions in the U.S., Europe and China. Her essays and critical reviews have been published in magazines and periodicals and reprinted in art history volumes. Adamitz Scrupe is the author of two poetry collections, Sky Pilot (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and BEAST (NFSPS, 2015). Eyewear Press (London, UK) published her new chapbook collection, Magnalia, released in early 2018. All are available on Amazon.
Scrupe’s poems have appeared in Bare Fiction, Comstock Review, Off The Coast, Narrative, Ruminate, Crosswinds Review, Crab Creek Review, Axon, Sentinel Quarterly Review, and many other literary journals and anthologies. In 2015 Adamitz Scrupe’s poem Arillus won commendation in the International Poetry Competition of the Poetry Society (UK), and she has won or been shortlisted for the Eyewear Press Lorgnette Chapbook Series (London), Fool for Poetry Pamphlet Competition (Ireland), Erbacce Poetry Prize (UK), Periplum Book Award (UK), Bright Hill Press Book Prize, Sentinel Poetry Book Competition (London), Aesthetica Creative Writing Award (UK), Canterbury Poetry Festival Prize (UK), Ron Pretty Poetry Prize (Australia), and the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Award (Australia).
AUTHOR COMMENTS: “We manage and survive our own choices.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Available on Amazon.com, as well as on the publisher’s website.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: By e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
A Minneapolis native, Mara Adamitz Scrupe received her BA from Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota and her MFA from Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in New York. She has taught and lectured nationally and internationally and occupied the first Barbara Bishop Endowed Chair in Art at Longwood University in Virginia. She also held the inaugural Alan F. Rothschild Distinguished Professorship at Columbus State University in Georgia and currently serves as Professor of Fine Arts at The University of the Arts in Center City Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She divides her time between Philadelphia and Charlottesville, Virginia where she lives on a farm with her husband of more than thirty years.