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Poet Talks Feminism and Food

Caroline Walworth ’22, Contributing Writer

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Students and professors called poet and memoirist Sandra Beasely, who spoke on being a female poet and growing up with extreme food allergies, aminated and energetic.

A crowd of over 50 Dickinson students, faculty and Carlisle residents gathered in Allison Hall on Monday, Nov. 5 to listen to Beasley’s reading of selected poems from her published collection Count the Waves. Beasley also read from the poetry anthology Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance, of which she is the editor.

Count the Waves is an “intersection of poems of love and poems of travel,” said Beasley. While in college, she was in an concentrated poetry environment and felt that she had to sacrifice “the part of me that was a poet or the part of me that was feminine.” Beasely spoke of one instance when, after a poetry reading, she was told by an esteemed poet that she was the “best dressed poet there,” while her male peers were taken more seriously. This inspired the title poem of the collection, which Beasely said incorporated a “purposeful mishearing” of the famed Elizabeth Barrett Browning line. 

Professor of English Carol Ann Johnston remarked that, “[Beasely] is a great reader… she had great animation. She was able to dramatically bring her poems to life, which I love.”

Another topic of discussion was Beasley’s complicated relationship with food, as she suffers from severe food allergies. This experience has shaped her entire life and it was the subject of her memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. Beasley is fascinated by “how one lives with extreme food allergies in the U.S.” and “literature through the lens of food”— which prompted her to become the editor of Vinegar and Char. 

“I was not expecting her to be so energetic,” said Dylan Lee ’21. “She made poetry really approachable… after this I might pursue my interest in poetry and throw together something for fun.”

When asked by a member of the audience where her confidence stems from while reading poetry, Beasley responded, “[It] comes from the knowledge that the audience is giving me the precious gift of their attention… I wouldn’t call it confidence but determination.” 

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Poet Talks Feminism and Food