Emotionally and viscerally gripping, Beautybeast by Adina Dabija and translated by Claudia Serea is an intense and rewarding experience. Each of its four sections pulls you deeper into its complex subject matter and intricate language manipulation, demonstrating deft verbal skills and intellectual depth. These four parts flow organically from one to the next, filled with imagery of blood, vitality, and consuming. Like an organism, the book is woven with veins connecting the most basic and yet important aspects of human life, the blood and food that nourish our bodies, to the poetry that nourishes our souls.
For instance, in section one, “The blood” draws the reader into a world violently united by “all the possibilities / of flesh and soul,” and section two brings us pieces like “The tramcar 16,” in which “poetry” is the food on the narrator’s “plate.” This theme of interconnectedness is furthered through poems like “The vortex zone,” in which “the stray dog inhabits the same verse / with that man in the car” and surreal imagery drives home the ebb and flow of life: “A huge mushroom grows under my feet / as soon as the rain starts. / I slide on its umbrella / and crush the earth.”
Finally, in sections three and four, many of the works take on a slightly darker tone while continuing to adhere to the book’s overall theme. Food and consuming remain poignant symbols of life’s cycle through time and toward loss and death. In “The death dance,” the speaker’s blood passes a lover’s “parched lips” and they sit on the edge of life’s “ravine,” her blood nourishing them both as they dance beside the dark abyss. However, in Dabija’s world hope and beauty ever remain, even in the face of loss, as evidenced by such works as “The voice from the pantry,” in which jars of preserves burn with the bright light of the past that exists simultaneously with the present, “where the sun sets and rises, where the roosters sing morning and / midnight at the same time, and your mother’s wrinkles become / maps for your teen years.”
Consistently, throughout Beautybeast, the translation flows naturally and true, and Dabija explores existence, reality, love, loss, and contemplation, all heavy-duty and well-trod themes, in surprisingly fresh ways and inspires us all to investigate life right down “to the final meaning of the thread.”
You can get a sneak peek at Beautybeast by reading Dabija’s poem “The voice from the pantry” at the NorthShore Press website.