Sunday 29 July 2018

Review by Sandra Pollock of "Secure Your Own Mask" by Shaindel Beers

Secure Your Own Mask provides a brilliant depiction of the experiences of women in today’s society. If you are female, you would be hard pressed not to find something you can relate to in this collection of poems.   

There were poems that made me cringe, others that ventured into areas not usually exposed to the light of day - such as ‘There Are No (Simple) Happy Endings.’ I loved the way this poem and others bravely exposed the reality of many mothers struggling with the demands of parenthood, along with the cultural expectations of women. 

Beers bravely opens up her womanhood, her humanness, exposing her experiences, good and bad - her inner frustrations, disappointments and sense of loss. She addresses uncomfortable topics, such as of control, abuse, violence, abandonment. ‘Playing Dolls’ and ‘This Old House,’ for example, are two poems which confront these subjects well.
Many of her poems start simply, lulling you into a sense of innocence, only then to confront you with words that make you sit up and focus on what is really being said. The arrangement, ordering and presentation of the poems also work well. The sentences pull you along, making it impossible to stop mid-flow, drawing you on inevitably to the poems' conclusions.  

Some pieces, such as ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pelican’ and ‘Finding Place,’ felt more like micro stories than poems. Beers is articulate and perceptive in her ability to create imagery, through her choice of words. What she does best, in my opinion, is to play on those words and images. My favourite poems in this regard are ‘The (I’m) Precision of Language,’ ‘First Flight,’ ‘Curious George Loves the Man with the Yellow Hat.’ These take you on a fanciful flight of images and emotions, as you skip along with the changing inflections of words, meanings, and perceptions.  

How many times have we read something, heard a song or read another author’s work, and it has taken us off into another world?  Beers seems to have made this her speciality.  ‘The Old Woman in the Forest,’ ‘When Lights Flash, Bridge Is Up,’ ‘A Catalogue of Pain,’ ‘After Mary Oliver’ are good examples. Some will find this a therapeutic read. Others, an open exploration of twenty-first century female experience. 

About the reviewer
Sandra Pollock loves fiction, fantasy and poetry, and is taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.

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