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Curious Conduct (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – July 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beaumont (Placebo Effects) co-edited The Poets' Grimm, an anthology of modern poems based on fairy tales, and a vivid fairy tale sensibility pervades her most original work in this second collection, complete with wolves, frog princes and modern-day Cinderellas. Some poems depend on tour-de-force conceits: one shows what rocks would say if they had their own language (the rock's speech begins "I only dance when I'm thrown"), while another gives ingenuous excerpts "From the Book of the Boot." Nineteenth-century Europe (from the Napoleonic wars to the rise of the parasol and the heyday of absinthe) makes another inspiration for Beaumont's glittery works, whose contemporary analogues range from Brenda Hillman to James Tate, mixing extended analogies with teasing non sequiturs: "If it weren't so sunny in this room/ we'd worry about the economy." Beaumont's self-portraits are likewise enticingly diverse: in "Regime" her contemporary speaker is a Baroque ruler in an oil painting; in "Circa 1812" "I'm in my early life as a fly, and I skim from table to/ table in search of the best gossip, best jam." Hanging over it all, and saving it from frivolity, is an air of persistent unhappiness: Beaumont's smorgasbord of techniques and scenes depicts a world "where the poor dog must sing for his supper/ on national television," and where "We are only as happy as our last dream."
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About the Author

Jeanne Marie Beaumont earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. Her first book, Placebo Effects, was selected by William Matthews as a winner in the 1997 National Poetry Series and was published by W.W. Norton. With Claudia Carlson, she co-edited the anthology The Poets' Grimm: Twentieth Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales (Story Line). For seven years she was publisher and co-editor of the literary magazine American Letters & Commentary. Beaumont teaches creative writing at Rutgers University.

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Product Details

  • Series: American Poets Continuum (Book 85)
  • Paperback: 84 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929918518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929918515
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,899,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanne Marie Beaumont was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs and moved to New York City in 1983. She is author of three books of poetry and currently teaches at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y and in the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Daly on November 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
CURIOUS CONDUCT is Jeanne Marie Beaumont's long-awaited second book, following her 1996 NAtional Poetry Series - winning volume, PLACEBO EFFECTS. As her titles indicate, Beaumont tracks the ways human behavior, like poetic content, shivers free of formal and codified conscious understanding but cannot elude true poetry. The hallmarks of Beaumont's writing are clear rhetoric, measured phrasing, and a subtle sound that's round in the mouth. Descriptive lists of her nominal topics and various approaches through form and experiment get a little wacky: Jon Benet Ramsey meets early American mourning folk art; Bonnard and Ionesco, Snoopy and Italo Calvino are included under this "big tent."

There's a sexy poem about a girl with a parasol:

"raw hand to the tusk, sliding up the varnished pole

great skirt of the thing flying open -- hoop

braid trim quivering there"

"Her Parasol," p. 15

and a scary terrorist poem that started out being about the sorts of accessories available at a dream five and dime ("of the last 5&10 / in America"), but ends:

"'s given

nothing away Now take your pocketbook home

hold it respectfully trembling in your hand

like one singled out by a terrorist."

"Accessory," p. 66

The poem is important, because it very quietly shines light on a loopy, feminine, working class, but very commercial "American Way of Life," even as it calmly associates an ars poetica (what is a "pocketbook" really), commerce, and sex (the woman is the purse).

CURIOUS CONDUCT begins "It was a dark and stormy night..." and ends with Joseph Cornell's star boxes. Thus the luminous details and observations are carefully arranged in Beaumont's wunderkammer of a book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Hound on July 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Curious Conduct is a great second book. It's much more experimental than Jeanne Beaumont's first book, Placebo Effects, which I also really enjoyed. Hers is a playful, intelligent voice, completely and quietly confident. She's a poet who makes a decision and sees it through. That makes Curious Conduct a difficult book to put down. Beaumont's world is fresh and sharp, imaginative, and dare I say fun? From "Corrected Proof":

The Broom will now kiss the bride.

Let science sweep in and enrapture the every day

as the blue blue dress wraps the planet.

Don't take nob for an answer.

Most theorems beg in on napkins...

Not surprisingly from one of the editor's of Poet's Grimm, there's a fairy tale quality here too: this is a world where rocks talk and bowls are exceedingly hungry. There's mischief here, and a bit of a twinkle in the "Metaphor Drawer" where "The shovel is ready/ The key turns in for the night" and "The Knife is desperate for friends".

Beaumont is a poet who engages with the world around her as much as with the language she is using:

Can nothing be done about the air?

A man asks, pretending to unnoose his tie.

I edit the sentence down to seven words.

I think he could lose the sportcoat.

I love a poet who is thinking on the page, and yet still engaged in the familiar. But don't let familiar fool you: there's more going on here than meets the eye.
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