Spotlight Author: A Representative from the City of “Dual Consciousness”

Sandra Beasley is the author of “I Was the Jukebox” (W. W. Norton, 2010, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize) and “Theories of Falling” (New Issues, 2008, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize). Other honors include the 2010 University of Mississippi Summer Poet in Residence position, a DCCAH Individual Artist Fellowship, the Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Maureen Egen Exchange Award from Poets & Writers, and fellowships to the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, VCCA, and the Millay Colony. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she is working on “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life,” forthcoming from Crown.

Sometimes it is easy to pin someone down as either a realist or an idealist, a dreamer or a pragmatist, but Washington D.C., the center of our national government may prove this theory completely wrong. You can find in this city not only the men and women who sign bills into law, but also those who put whimsical poetry onto paper.

Credit: Matthew Worden

D.C resident Sandra Beasley shared this about her city: “I’m very proud of the fact that, amidst all the banalities of bureaucracy, Washington also houses the office that empowers poets of this caliber to act as ambassadors to the larger audience of the American reading public.” At a recent reading at the Library of Congress, Beasley found herself amongst talented writers who shared conversations not only about metaphors and language manipulation, but lobbying and nonprofits. It turns out D.C. is the paragon of the best of both worlds.

Sandra Beasley, whose first work, Theories of Falling won the 2007 New Visions Poetry Prize has always had a fascination with the written word and can attest to following this love in practical ways as well. She was the editor of an underground literary journal at the University of Virginia, and continued on during her master’s program to become the editor of American University’s literary journal, FOLIO. Beasley told us that the love of this particular work, from selection to lay out to proofing led to her position as an editor for the American Scholar, “a natural extension of my ongoing love affair with the published word.” Here Sandra was able to work with a variety of different types of written work from gifted authors including John Updike, Charles Johnson, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Sandra Gilbert, and William Zinsser. Through this exposure as well as her own writing trials, Beasley began to see the importance of genres outside of poetry, her first true love.

While working on the follow-up to her first poetry collection, Sandra found it difficult to exclude a lot of the back story from her lyrical poems. She realized that this type of writing can stand on its own just fine. Today we find Sandra finishing up “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life,” a memoir combined with a cultural history of food allergies. She found a way to express through her talented, creative voice frustrations that many people may have, with some pretty interesting facts along the way.

Beasley also told us that when she writes, she doesn’t hold anything back. It isn’t about blending in with what’s already out there, but rather distinguishing yourself while being relatable. One piece of advice that will always stick us that Beasley shared was: “We all have to strike the balance between heeding one’s condition while not letting one’s world–or the world of those around you–revolve around it.” We can all learn a lot from the D.C. poet, and you can always learn more by checking out her website at:

(Written by Courtney McNamara)


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