Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit (Paperback)
Brick Mantel Books, 9781941799055, 68pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Southern poetry with a gothic twist
A Southerner by birth, Susan Swartwout's history and writing are steeped in the gothic elements of quotidian life in the Deep South, a celebration of difference and the uncommon odd beauties who embellish our plain lives. These poems explore the lives of freaks celebrities of Southern fairs' sideshows such as conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker's married lives, the Fat Lady's work schedule, Tom Thumb's Barnum-warped ego, all parallel to the hidden desires, plots, and jealousies of the rest of us. Our exterior normality belies the internal twisted landscapes how complicity and silence echo abuse, how depression infects entire families, how a five-year-old learns to use words as weapons, how human need dispels language's boundaries. From circus oddities to real-life boogeymen, from Louisiana to a Central American village, earth has no dearth of the gothic's strange fruit, illuminating the complexity of what it is to be human.