What happens when the things we care for—children, lovers, parents, dreams, homes—are taken away? What populates our landscapes and how do we perceive those objects? In her debut collection of poems, Beautiful in the Mouth, Keetje Kuipers attempts to answer these questions. Written over the course of five years and a geographic journey spanning Paris to New York to Oregon, Kuipers’ poems examine contemporary female loss in terms of literal and figurative geography: the empty bedroom of a dead child, a clear-cut hillside outside of a logging town. From her own unique perspective, Kuipers continues in the spirit of poets like Elizabeth Bishop to examine how loss forces itself upon unwilling landscapes and how those landscapes must alter to receive that loss.
I eat chirashizushi, peel the raw fish
from their sweet bed of seasoned rice.
I know right now the beaten mares on 59th
stomp slowly at the snowy curb, take great
pitchers of air into their distended lungs
and bloom from between yellowed teeth
white peonies against the trees of Central Park.
I have tried to forget your light, the way it breaks
me open, even now, and makes me speak,
how it glitters in the gutters up and down Eighth Avenue,
swirling in pools of snowmelt, so many
sparkling tea leaves I still read for signs of you.
“I was immediately struck by the boldness of imagination, the strange cadences, and wild music of these poems. We should be glad that young poets like Keetje Kuipers are making their voices heard not by tearing up the old language but by making the old language new.” —Thomas Lux, from the Foreword